A show all about imagination forces you to use a lot of it. While the story of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is there, it lacks that sense of magic that Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp displayed in their movie adaptations.
While Hollywood’s graphics can never be matched on the Great White Way, this Wonka factory, controlled by Christian Borle as Willy Wonka, isn’t delectable enough.
Borle is accompanied by a trio of young children who take the role of Charlie in varying performances.
Ryan Foust, who performed as Charlie on April 28 and is making his Broadway debut with the show, was giddy and had an incredible voice for someone so young. However, much like with some of his cast mates, the acting seems too forced, too unrealistic and, frankly, unimaginable (pun intended).
Broadway often asks you to suspend your disbelief, pretend you are seeing believable things and invest your time and interest into fictional characters. The problem here was the extravaganza that is Wonka’s factory. It’s a square box.
Even from Row Q in the orchestra, it was hard to see the cow Wonka milked, the type of plant Charlie bit or the other candies the children were talking about.
For a show that should be in a room of color, craze and magical creations, it woefully disappoints.
Speaking of disappointment, Charlie’s defining moment of finding the golden ticket was nothing to get excited about. Yes, the movie makes this scene obvious, but a change to “gold” lighting is the only heightened level of excitement in the Broadway performance.
The sets were definitely lacking and the lighting sometimes seemed bad as well. In some scenes, the lights looked off or some characters missed their stage markers. It was not good.
Despite these flaws, the Oompa Loompas were great comedic relief, as were the numerous unique technical efforts. They added excitement to a show that greatly needed it.
Mike Teavee (Michael Wartella) added great topical relief about technology and made a few great jokes at the U.S. president’s expense.
There were some unusual moments, like a ballet scene where squirrels literally killed Veruca Salt. They also, oddly, included dabbing in the show.
The show’s time frame also seemed out of whack. Charlie’s mother almost loses her laundry service job because of a washing machine, but Teavee has an iPad? It was just confusing.
All in all, the show has its moments of humor and beauty, but getting a ticket to this show shouldn’t be considered a golden ticket by any means.