REVIEW: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY the Musical at the Denver Center
by Taylor Jo Oxley
Come to the Denver Center and you’ll see a world of pure imagination. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has come to life on the stage at the Buell Theatre. This musical was colorful, inventive, and surprisingly insulting at times.
The first number brings us Gene Wilder fans into a world that we know with “The Candy Man”. Even though the bulkiness of the costumes obstructed the dancers bodies, the choreography was tight in this number. It is here we are introduced to the strength that is the voice of Noah Weisberg, our Willy Wonka. Weisberg does an impeccable job embodying everything that is the whimsical Candy Man while making the role his own. He really is a joy to watch. A number to note is his duet with Charlie Buckett. The final number, “The View from Here”, could not have been a stronger number to showcase the talents of both performers. I had the delight of seeing Rueby Wood perform the role of Charlie Buckett. At just eleven years old Wood has honed his craft masterfully. He fully showcases his vocal talents, especially in “Willy Wonka! Willy Wonka!” as well as the finale.
The cast performed their roles well despite the poor quality of writing. It is known that the rest of the children and their parents in this story are supposed to be brats, but this iteration of the show was over the top. The writers took the characters of Mike Teavee and Mrs. Teavee distastefully too far. “That Little Man of Mine” was essentially Mrs. Teavee stating how she had to medicate her son to deal with him while being a drug abuser and alcoholic herself, a theme that is continued throughout the production. Another lack in the story was that it was a stretch to tell what era the show was set in. Charlie’s mother spoke about how a washing machine would be replacing her at the local laundry, when at the chocolate factory Charlie stated that his family didn’t have electricity, but Violet had an Instagram account and Mike Teavee was running with an iPad around his neck.
The biggest standout, and quite honestly what stole the show, was the adorable Oompa Loompas. The intelligent puppetry of the little orange haired friends was mastered by the ensemble. It is clear that Choreographer Joshua Bergasse and Puppet Designer Basil Twist put much thought and effort into the Oompa Loompas. Another thing to note was the use of projections throughout the show. While used to supplement the lack of set pieces in many scenes, the projections were revered in “Vidiots”.
Overall Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was an entertaining production to watch. The children at the performance seemed to enjoy themselves very much, even when the adults were cringing at the things Mrs. Teavee said. If you can handle a few obnoxious remarks and a fair amount of inconsistencies in writing then I would suggest going to see the Oompa Loompas dance. They did come all the way from Loompa Land after all.
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is enchanting audiences, young and old now through July 28th at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Center Complex. For tickets or more information, contact the Denver Center Box Office by calling 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org.
PHOTO CREDIT: Joan Marcus