Good ol’ Willy Wonka and the young chocolate loving boy Charlie Bucket first came to the attention of the world in 2005 in the Oscar nominated film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka and Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket. Now they are back this time as a new musical by Roald Dahl and that magical chocolate factory has landed right in the lap of Hollywood at the spectacular Pantages Theatre now with Noah Weisberg as Willy Wonka and Henry Boshart (Collin Jeffery, and Rueby Wood alternating) as Charlie Bucket and oh what a wonderful show it is.
Willie Wonka establishes the track for the show as he lets the audience know that after about 40 years running his globally acclaimed chocolate factory the time has come for Willie to retire. But for him to do that he needs to find someone well qualified to step up and take charge; he needs to find the perfect Candy Man.
Charlie Bucket is living with his loving but impoverished mother and grandparents in a shanty by the train tracks, Charlie loves Willie Wonka’s amazing chocolate but he has no money and he is saddened to learn that his typical birthday gift, a Wonka bar, may be denied him because his mother has no money. Then it gets worse when he learns of Willie Wonka’s latest marketing strategy Wonka announces to the world that he has placed a golden ticket in five Wonka bars. Anyone who finds a golden ticket is invited to take a first time ever tour of the chocolate factory and will receive a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolate. That possibility staggers the imagination of the young Charlie Bucket but he becomes exasperated by his inability to buy even one bar
By odd happenstance Charlie comes into possession of one dollar and immediately takes it to the nearby candy store which is actually being run by Willie Wonka incognito. Charlie does not at first open his candy bar. Soon the results start coming in from all over the world. One by one the winners of the golden tickets are announced. After four of the five golden ticket recipients have been announced Charlie decides to eat his chocolate bar. As he opens the package he discovers to his overwhelming delight that he is in possession of golden ticket number five. Charlie Bucket is going to the chocolate factory and he will never be without his most beloved treat ever again for the rest of his life.
By this time in the show I have reached two conclusions. One is that Noah Weisberg is spectacular as Willie Wonka. The other is the obviously young Henry Boshart has all the right stuff to be a huge success in the performing arts. No element of this show is anything less than fantastic but these two actors stand out vividly.
So as the show moves into Act Two the five golden ticket winners arrive at the mystical chocolate factory to begin the tour. What exactly is inside the chocolate factory? How does Willie Wonka make his acclaimed chocolate? What exactly are the magic ingredients that make Willie Wonka’s chocolate such a sought after treat? What will these five highly privileged people discover inside the chocolate factory and most of all who will Willie Wonka chose as his successor? Here is a hint . Wonka’s decision is heavily influenced by a letter he received before the tour ever even begins.
To be sure this is clearly a fantasy and often ignores what we might consider to be reality. But that is always the case with art. Even so don’t we all know of someone living in deep poverty who nevertheless has some vision and talent that can be brought to light under the right circumstances? Isn’t it quite natural for a young boy or girl to be enamored with chocolate and other candies? This story succeeds because while clearly a fantasy it is totally relatable It began as a hit movie and is now a smashing success as a musical.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory runs now through April 14th 2019 at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. Complete information and ticketing is available here: HollywoodPantages website.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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