‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ Broadway adaptation comes to Buffalo

The beloved children's story is welcomed into Shea’s Broadway series

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A UB alum is helping bring the Broadway production of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” to Shea’s Performing Arts Center with a fresh twist. The performance offers a vibrant set design, elaborate musical numbers and a barrage of humor. 

The production runs from Sept. 21 through Sept. 29 and is a part of the M&T Bank Broadway Series. The choice to tour in Buffalo comes from Mark Shacket, a ‘95 alum, who serves as the general manager of the national tour. 

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” follows the journey into Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory, and the chaos that accompanies the children who enter. The plot includes Charlie Bucket, a little boy living in poverty that defies all odds when he has the chance to tour the factory. 

The production featured familiar songs like “The Candy Man” and “Pure Imagination,” but also included new songs written entirely for the stage production. Many of these songs replace the Oompa Loompa marches that occurred during the film adaptation. 

Despite an audience full of families with young children, the production made multiple questionable style choices with their adaptation. Unlike the book and film, the live production is blatant with the depiction and acceptance of death.

Both the film and book adaptations took the liberty of reassuring the audience that the children were alive following their departure from the tour. The musical production contains two scenes that depict the obliteration of children and a musical number about cannibalism. 

These scenes were well-written and comically timed, but seemed unsuitable for an audience of young children. The use of human-sized squirrels, all dancing under a red light and ripping a young girl apart is not something expected within a children-friendly production. 

The backstory of the Oompa Loompas has long since caused controversy because of its implications to colonialism. The Oompa Loompas could easily become a fantastical species Willy Wonka takes care of, rather than a native tribe he pays in beans. 

Many families were unbothered by these aspects and enjoyed the production with their children. 

Maria Knoeble brought her two daughters, ages seven and nine, to the production. 

“We’ve seen both movies and we really like the show,” Knoeble said. “I think the jokes are fine. It’s up to the parents to determine what their kids see.”

The production featured an incredibly talented cast. Actor Noah Weisberg (Willy Wonka) stole the show with his powerful vocals, but the supporting cast also gave solid performances. The child performers were surprisingly strong. Brynn Williams (Violet Beauregarde) was another powerful performer who belted out musical performances throughout the show. 

In order to compensate for the film adaptation’s computer-generated imagery, the show implemented projections throughout the performance. These projections acted as a backdrop, as well as a tool for character interaction. 

Within the book and film, Mike Teavee is transported into a television set. This action was entirely done using projections and resulted in interesting practical effects. His character was projected all throughout the stage and interacted with video games within the television. The audience laughed as Teavee’s character ran from Oompa Loompas along the “Crash Bandicoot” map, all within the confines of a projection. 

“I’m really impressed by the show. I actually think it’s much better than the movies,” said Tim Smith, a Hamburg resident. “I like how it can be real and in front of you. There’s something for everyone here.”

The audience laughed throughout the performance, and the cast received a standing ovation following the final number. 

Samantha Vargas is the asst. arts editor and can be reached at samantha.vargas@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @SamVargasArts