Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is tremendous fun! At Wednesday night’s Pantages premiere, we were all kids in Charlie’s candy store, gorging on one delightful comedic moment after the other, and leaving with a bellyful of laughs.
Noah Weisberg (Willy Wonka) found the right balance between zaniness and warmth, and displayed impeccable timing. He delivered his rapid-fire lines with a crispness rivaling that of Robert Downey Jr. Henry Boshart (Charlie Bucket) was perfect as the young boy with a heart as golden as his golden ticket, a lad who doesn’t know how to be other than completely himself. He was the perfect foil not only for Willy Wonka but the hilariously spoiled brats who were competing with him for the grand prize.
Small wonder that when Weisberg and Boshart took their bows, the audience’s vigorous applause soared to a standing ovation.
The whole cast was an irresistible box of chocolates—with an abundance of nuts– for anyone with a sweet tooth for humor. And as for the Oompa-Loompas: Let’s just say that they alone are worth the price of admission. Indeed, all the imaginative elements in Road Dahl’s beloved story are wonderfully captured in the production values as well as the cast.
Madeline Doherty (Mrs. Teavee) made for a delightful dipsomaniac, Jessica Cohen (Veruca Salt) is not only a ballerina, but even more impressive, a comedic one. Brynn Williams (Violet Beauregarde) made girlish vanity charmingly humorous, underwriting it with her considerable talent. Matt Wood (Augustus Gloop) carried great comedic weight and Daniel Quadrino (Mike Teavee) may have driven mom to drink, but drove the rest of us to mirth.
James Young (Grandpa Joe) was endearingly eccentric, and Amanda Rose (Mrs. Bucket) provided a moving counterpoint to all the fun as a widowed single mother who does not allow her grief to overshadow her love for Charlie.
Beneath all the chocolaty humor and charm is a crunchy core of 21st truth that would not have surprised Roald Dahl. Visionary CEOs face the problem of finding equally visionary successors. Willy Wonka could be Steve Jobs in a funhouse mirror. And those seeking success at Google or other high-tech Shangri-La may share the bewilderment, if not the narcissism, of the chocolate factory contestants. And with a nod to the “golden ticket” college admission scandals that have hit the news, we can see the same spirit of corner cutting among some of the parents of Charlie’s rivals.
As for Charlie himself, can a mere letter set him on the path to sweet success? Well, a “mere” poem about a hurricane moved patrons to put Alexander Hamilton on a path from poverty to greatness. But is Charlie’s love for the product itself—with no interest in treating it as a means to wealth and fame—enough? I suspect Jobs would say that such a love is absolutely necessary, but not sufficient. And as fans of the story know, without that love one’s hopes are likely to explode, be shredded or shrink drastically.
Charlie can learn other life lessons later on. For now, let’s enjoy his sheer spontaneity and unabashed love of Everlasting Gobstoppers.
So if you long for an evening of pure laughter, a brief respite from the anger and distress roiling the rock we’re on, then put Charlie Bucket on your Broadway bucket list and go to the Pantages.
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Three weeks only, from March 27 to April 14, at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 2019 Hollywood Blvd., near Vine. Tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are available at www.HollywoodPantages.com/Cats and www.Ticketmaster.com, by phone at (800) 982-2787or in person at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre Box Office (Opens Daily at 10am PT).
Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8p.m., and Sunday at 1p.m. and 6:30p.m. Recommended for ages 6 and up. Children under 5 will not be admitted.
All patrons must have a ticket, regardless of age. Individual tickets start at $35. Prices are subject to change without notice.