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"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", Starring Christian Borle, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
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"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", Starring Christian Borle, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights
On Restaurant Row
338 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036

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Warner Bros. Theater Ventures
Langley Park Productions
Neal Street Productions

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
(Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Website)

Based on the novel by Roald Dahl
Songs from the Motion Picture by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Christian Borle

Ryan Foust as Charlie Bucket

Ben Crawford, Kathy Fitzgerald, Alan H. Green, Jackie Hoffman
Monette McKay, F. Michael Haynie, Pfaeffle, Michael Wartella
Emily Padgett, John Rubenstein

and an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Exec. Producers:
Mark Kaufman, Kevin McCormick, Caro Newling

Directed by Jack O’Brien
Choreography by Joshua Bergasse
Music Direction and Supervision by Nicholas Skilbeck

At the
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre
205 West 46th Street

Scenic and Costume Design: Mark Thompson
Lighting Design: Japhy Weideman
Sound Design: Andrew Keister
Video and Projection Design: Jeff Sugg
Puppetry Design: Basil Twist
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Casting: Telsey + Company
Rachel Hoffman, CSA
Hair, Wigs, and Makeup: Campbell Young Associates
Orchestrations by Doug Besterman
Arrangements by Mark Shaiman
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions
General Manager: Foresight Theatrical / Marc Shacket
Production Stage Manager: Michael J. Passaro
Press Representative: Polk & Co.
Company Manager: Marc Borsack
Advertising: AKA
Marketing: On the Rialto
Digital Marketing: Situation Interactive

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 25, 2017

The new Warner Brothers Theatrical Ventures et al. production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, based on Roald Dahl’s novel and its two motion picture adaptations, is a show for children, not for solo adults. Characters are cartoonish, songs are forgettable, except “The Candy Man” (which does not belong in this show), and kid characters explode, from too much candy or chocolate craving. To add insult to injury of the audience’s cravings, no candy or chocolate was given out at the theater, just sold at the concession booths. The Act I sets are gruesome, with little Charlie Bucket’s (Ryan Foust) four grandparents, Grandpas Joe and George and Grandmas Josephine and Georgina, all sleeping together day and night in one blanketed tree house bed, cracking bathroom styled jokes throughout. Costumes of the impoverished clan are drab earthy. John Rubenstein plays the prominently featured Grandpa Joe. Emily Padgett is Mrs. Bucket, a sad, forlorn widow, who sends Charlie out to buy spoiled cabbages for dinner from a food wagon. Charlie’s escape mechanism is to visit the town’s fancy chocolate shop, run by Willy Wonka in disguise (Christian Borle). The shop owner sadistically slides a chocolate bar under Charlie’s nose repeatedly, only to slide it away in mock jest.

As “the plot thickens” (not), Wonka offers five chocolate bars to all his fans, which will be found in random sales, and which will each contain one golden ticket for a tour of his chocolate factory. Charlie finally wins the fifth, and Grandpa Joe accompanies him on the trip, thanks to the treehouse grandparents chipping in expenses. For Charlie, just having an early birthday Wonka bar is almost enough. The Act II shenanigans at the brightly-lit candy land-factory are much more pleasant than the tree bed and cabbages. The other four contestants, who already won the tour and a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolate, and who compete for a mystery top prize, are over-the-top, obnoxiously behaved, spoiled brats, accompanied by a mother or father, who’s either put upon or off-putting. Augustus Gloop and Mrs. Gloop (F. Michael Haynie and Kathy Fitzgerald) trot out in German costumes full of roped sausages and yodeling outfits. Veruca Salt and Mr. Salt (Emma Pfaeffle and Ben Crawford) prance out in Veruca’s Russian ballet tutu, her doting father in a suit. Violet Beauregarde and Mr. Beauregarde (Trista Dollison and Alan H. Green) pop out in bubble gum mania. Mike Teavee and Mrs. Teavee (Michael Wartella and Jackie Hoffman) are the “pièces de résistance” of this show. Ms. Hoffman, always hilarious, plays the mostly inebriated and medicated mother to a very annoying, big boy. These four young adult actors as Charlie’s competitors are perfectly suited for the overly showcased roles.

Basil Twist, the theatrical puppet-maker and puppeteer, has the ensemble in all-black jumpsuits, showing their full heads and manipulating tiny bodies and limbs in front to make them into faux little people. The kids in the audience loved these Oompa Loompas and their related song, but this skit seemed creepy, although unique. Jack O’Brien has directed for a plodding Act I and a pulsating Act II, all with a very dark side. Dark chocolate all around, one might say. But Mr. O’Brien keeps Mr. Borle front and center, with outsized personality and pretty good vocals, entertaining the enthused young audience and even the actors, who were ebullient. Joshua Bergasse, a busy choreographer these days, set up some breezy dance confections, particularly late in the show. Mark Thompson’s scenery and costumes in Act II were astounding, with the factory exploding with squirrels or flooding in motion or bursting into floral desserts. The psychedelic color scheme here was magnetic. Sound, lighting, orchestrations, and projections all expanded the experience, mainly for the kids who knew and love the book and movie. But, David Greig’s book, Marc Shaiman’s music, and the Wittman/Shaiman lyrics are far less than riveting. Maybe a Wonka chocolate bar should have been attached to each ticket to sweeten the show.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at