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An everlasting showstopper: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical

reviews Mar 05, 2019
The joyful and hungry, Jake Fehily (Augustus Gloop)

Oompa Loompa, do-ba-dee-doo, we’ve got a perfect puzzle for you! What do you get when you mix a delightful cast, scrumptious costumes, and a score filled with deliciously tasty tunes? The delectable treat Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical. Adapted from Roald Dahl’s classic tale, this production by director Jack O’Brien brings to life all the quirks and quintessential yumminess that has brought generation after generation back for more, more, MORE!

As the curtain rises on this tantalising tale we meet the chocolate maker himself, Willy Wonka singing an eerie version of the classic song ‘The Candy Man’ and pondering to himself “can you get sick of chocolate?”. With his factory shut to the public and sales plummeting due to modern marketing trends, Mr. Wonka sets off on a quest (disguised as a humble candy-store clerk) to find a successor to his fudgelicious fortune. Announcing to the world that he will give five lucky children a special tour of his factory if they find a golden ticket.

In this latest production, all the classic trademarks of the original feel-good story are there with some unique Australianisims – including references to Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade. Alongside a toe-tapping, ear-tickling new score, this production also features songs from the original film, including ‘I’ve Got a Golden Ticket’ and our personal favourite ‘Pure Imagination’ – astoundingly performed by Broadway star, Paul Slade Smith (Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, Finding Neverland, My Fair Lady).

Making his Sydney debut as Willy Wonka, Smith brings the quirky chocolaterie to life in a flavourful fashion. Showing true skill, he layers the character with sprinkles of charismatic craziness and works in hints of dark eccentricities that mirror a man who’s facing the inevitability of old age. Thankfully, Smith’s adaption of the iconic character seems to draw more inspiration from Gene Wilder’s interpretation from the classic 1971 film, rather then Johnny Depp’s 2005 creepy creation which resembles something from a child’s nightmare – instead of their dreams.

Enter Charlie Bucket, played by Ryan Yeates on opening night, a wide-eyed role he shares with three other boys, Xion Jarvis, Tommy Blair and Oliver Alkhair. No easy feat for a thirteen-year-old to undertake, Yates give us a hero with a heart of pure gold – skilfully portraying the innocence, thoughtfulness, and giddiness that we have come to know and love about Charlie Bucket.

Helpmann Award-winning actors Tony Sheldon (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and Lacy Maunder (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) play opposite Yates as Grandpa Joe and his mum Mrs. Bucket. Their performances are both flawless and uplifting, but for us the real sugar-rush starts when the rest of the quirky cast take centre stage.

Giving absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious performances, this wacky band of misfits includes Augustus Gloop (Jake Fehily), Veruca Salt (Karina Russell), Violet Beauregarde (Jayme-Lee Hanekom) and Mike Teavee (Harrison Riley), beginning Act Two with a bang! These vile and eccentric children (all played by adults) keep you totally entertained.

As we enter Willy Wonka’s famous factory, this glorious world is brought to life by technicolour sets and immersive lighting effects. Out of all the rooms that we visit the iconic ‘Chocolate Room’ really takes the cake. Wrapped in gummy bears, candy canes, and a chocolate river – this set makes everyones tastebuds tingle. Venturing further into the factory each child begins to be marvellously maimed. From Augustus being sucked down a chocolate tube, Violet bouncing around on stage as a giant blueberry, or Veruca being decapitated by a mob of angry squirrels – the audience is left both shocked and wanting more (we swear that everyone in the audience sighed with disappointment when Augustus and his hilarious yodelling mother got kicked off the team first).

Bringing these characters to life are their vibrant costumes, making them even more loveable. Dressed in traditional lederhosen trimmed with German sausages, puffy pink ballerina skirts with matching silk slippers, bedazzled purple velour tracksuits and neon coloured jumpers – this ensemble has definitely been Wonka-fied!

And then there’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the Oompa Loompas arrive! Before the show there was much debate over how the Oompa Loompas would be played. Without giving too much away, they’re a serious highlight of the show. The technique and craftsmanship that has gone into creating Mr. Wonka’s helping hands truly puts the cherry on top of this production.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical is a sugar-hit for all ages, making you feel like a big kid in an endless candy store. And as Willy Wonka says “in your wildest dreams you can’t imagine the marvellous surprises that await YOU!” (and did we mention there were Oompa Loompas?!).

Currently playing at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre until 9 June; get your hands on a golden ticket from just $59.90!