“You have to see it to believe it,” says Willy Wonka as he guides his group of five golden ticket winners, and their parents, into his factory. That mantra is especially true of the Broadway musical, playing at the Buell Theatre in Denver through July 28.
When Charlie Bucket wins a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s magical chocolate factory, a wild ride begins. Filled with spectacular set changes and effects, the Broadway version of Roald Dahl’s classic brings the magic of the story to life.
Staying true to the original story, Charlie Bucket is an unassuming young boy being raised by his single mother and four grandparents who have been in the same bed for decades. The family has very little, often buying secondhand vegetables for dinner. When news breaks that the legendary Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, which has been shuttered for years, is reopening and running a contest to win a tour, Charlie rushes to buy a Wonka Bar. Of course, so do Russian ballerina Veruca Salt, gum-popping wannabe pop star Violet Beauregarde, TV-addict and amateur hacker Mike Teavee, and sausage-loving Augustus Gloop.
Played by a rotation of four young actors, Charlie Bucket’s earnest, easygoing personality is countered by Noah Weisberg’s flamboyant portrayal of Willy Wonka and his superb comedic timing. Weisberg, who has guest starred on Modern Family and iCarly, glides through the role, becoming a show-stopping Wonka that sings, dances, and delights the audience.
The musical’s effects and set designs are standout stars. The detail that brings the magic of Willy Wonka’s factory to life dazzles, as does the clever way the musical brings the Oompa Loompas to life. A quick dance number featuring giant squirrels brought a squeal of delight to many of the kids in the audience.
Audiences will note that the Broadway version sticks closely to the original, with a couple nods to YouTube and social media to bring the musical into 2019. Most importantly, the original message remains strong throughout, that there is power in imagination and value in being kind and considerate towards others.
The musical runs two and a half hours, throughout which the two toddlers next to me were attentive and delighted. Which is a treat better than the Everlasting Gobstoppers and Wonka’s Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight shown on stage.
Need to Know: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory plays at the Buell Theatre, at Denver Center for the Performing Arts, July 9-28. Tickets start at $45.