Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, playing now through Sunday, Feb. 17th, at the Durham Performing Arts Center, as part of DPAC‘s SunTrust Broadway Series, is an imaginative evening of theater aimed at the child in all of us. Despite what some pacing issues, there were some genuinely fun moments in the first act. The interactions between and Charlie Bucket (played by the adorable Rueby Wood) and Grandpa Joe (James Young) are sweet; but it was the brief scenes with Mrs. Green (played in drag by Clyde Voce, who is a standout in the ensemble too), which elicited the biggest laughs. Mrs. Green sells Charlie the rotten vegetables that the Bucket family subsists on until Wonka-mania makes selling chocolate more profitable.
The scenes in chocolate shop with the Candyman — which should make you feel like … well … a kid in a candy shop — lacked any sense of wonder or warmth. The small set felt more like an airport kiosk than a place of fascination and delight. However, the video and graphics incorporated into the sets are great and keep you from feeling too disappointed.
In this version, Charlie’s father has been killed off, which I suspect is a device used to force a kind of father/son bond between Willie Wonka, played by the delightful Benjamin Howes (understudy for Noah Weisberg), and Charlie. This was a good plan, but it doesn’t quite work.
Wonka and Charlie are kindred spirits in their love of chocolate, but there is something unsettlingly narcissistic about the Candyman/Wonka character. Charlie is all goodness and selflessness; but Wonka seems so self-absorbed that you wonder if, perhaps, Charlie might not be better off applying for a Pell Grant and going to community college rather than hitch his wagon to Wonka’s star.
To be fair, children see this differently: During intermission, I asked a young girl why she thought the Candyman seemed mean to Charlie during the first part of the show and why he didn’t just give Charlie the candy bar for his birthday. She said, “I think he wanted Charlie to get the ticket on his own.” Then she told me that she takes dance lessons, thought Veruca Salt (played by Jessica Cohen) was a really good dancer, and announced — in-between leaps — that she is staying up way past her bedtime. The little dancing girl had gleaned something that I hadn’t: Willie Wonka wanted to Charlie to feel as if he had earned the ticket; and, yes, I suppose that is something a father would do.
So, Charlie finds the dollar that Willie Wonka drops for him, and uses it to buy the last Wonka bar to be found. The other four having already been found/stolen by the four worst children on the planet.
Veruca Salt (Jessica Cohen), a Russian oligarch’s spoiled daughter who has never been told, “Nyet”; Violet Beauregarde (Brynn Williams), a hip-hop, gum-chewing Internet sensation; Augustus Gloop (Matt Wood), a Bavarian Glutton; and Mike Teavee (Daniel Quadrino), a screen-addicted sociopath-in-training who hacked himself a golden ticket are an up-to-date and over-the-top indictment of today’s culture. Despite the, “Hey, you kids get off of my lawn” vibe of some of the new music, the second half of this show is laugh-out loud funny.
SPOILER ALERT: This show is a bit darker than what you might be used to. Dear Mr. Wonka doesn’t show an ounce of remorse when four kids are killed and /or maimed in a series of shocking, yet musically entertaining, OSHA violations; but I don’t think that it bothered any of the kids in the audience. They see things that we don’t; and in a world of pure imagination, even exploded purple divas get put back together somehow.
SECOND OPINION: Feb. 13th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh BWW Review by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-Oozy-Saccharine-Sweet-National-Tour-of-CHARLIE-AND-THE-CHOCOLATE-FACTORY-Just-Might-Be-One-Concoction-Worth-Trying-20190213 and Feb. 7th BWW Interview with actor James Young, conducted by Lauren Van Hemert: https://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interview-CHARLIE-AND-THE-CHOCOLATE-FACTORYS-James-Young-Talks-about-Grandpa-Joe-and-the-Importance-of-Theater-for-Young-People-20190207; Feb. 13th Burlington, NC Times-News review by Hollyann Gardner for “Teens & 20s”: http://teensandtwenties.com/charlie-the-chocolate-factory-is-high-energy-fun/ and Feb. 7th preview by Hollyann Gardner for “Teens & 20s”: http://teensandtwenties.com/charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-comes-to-dpac/; Feb. 13th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2019/02/dpacs-charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-treats-viewers-to-a-truly-fantastical-world-of-pure-imagination/; and Feb. 13th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com review by Kathy Hanrahan for “What’s on Tap”: https://www.wral.com/charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-is-whimsical-mix-of-sweet-and-sour/18190479/.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 14, 8 p.m. Feb. 15, 2 and 8 p.m. Feb. 16, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District. TICKETS: $31 and up, plus taxes and fees. Click here to enter the digital lottery for $30 Rush Tickets. BOX OFFICE: DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy. Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/369510/2466407/. GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services. SHOW: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory and https://www.facebook.com/events/553574095061380/. VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzt72x5JBXzHqrpIhTIycsA. DPAC NEWS RELEASES: https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/dpac-announces-digital-rush-lottery-for-roald-dahls-charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory and https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/roald-dahls-charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-on-sale-oct-25. DPAC‘S 2018-19 “IT’S OUR NEW YORK, NEW YORK” SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2018-19. THE TOUR: https://www.charlieonbroadway.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory–518389, https://www.facebook.com/CharlieOnBway, https://twitter.com/CharlieOnBway/, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzt72x5JBXzHqrpIhTIycsA. TOUR CAST & CREATIVE TEAM: https://www.charlieonbroadway.com/cast-and-creative/. PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center. DIRECTIONS: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions. PARKING: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking. NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16th, performance. OTHER LINKS: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964 children’s book): https://www.roalddahl.com/roald-dahl/stories/a-e (official web page) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_and_the_Chocolate_Factory (Wikipedia). Roald Dahl (British writer and screenwriter, 1916-90): (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/roald-dahl-8343 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001094/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roald_Dahl (Wikipedia). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005 film): http://pdl.warnerbros.com/wbol/uk/chocolatefactory/flashsite/index.html?b=1 (official website), http://www.tcm.turner.com/tcmdb/title/547050/Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory/ (Turner Classic Movies page), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0367594/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_and_the_Chocolate_Factory_(film) (Wikipedia). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2017 Broadway musical and 2018 National Tour): https://www.charlieonbroadway.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-509566 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_and_the_Chocolate_Factory_(musical) (Wikipedia). Marc Shaiman (music and lyrics): http://kraft-engel.com/clients/marc-shaiman/ (Kraft-Engel Management bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/marc-shaiman-75368 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0003299/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Shaiman (Wikipedia). Scott Wittman (lyrics): https://www.masterworksbroadway.com/artist/scott-wittman/ (Official Masterworks Broadway Site bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/scott-wittman-16532 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0937096/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Wittman (Wikipedia). David Greig (book): https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/david-greig (British Council bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/david-greig-509570 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0340052/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Greig_(dramatist) (Wikipedia).
Nicole Noel is a former U.S. Army journalist-turned-Technical Knowledge Manager, with a love for the arts. At age seven, she wrote her first story on the wall of her basement after being told the family might have to move: “There once was a girl named Nicole who had a dog named Rat and they lived in this house.” She liked the way that you could capture a moment in a sentence, and still does. These days Nicole lives with her daughter, and a dog named Buffy, in a house in Fuquay-Varina. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.