Roald Dahl Imagines a Rich, Grotesque Dreamworld
by Rachel Norby
This stage rendition of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is pure magic. It’s a delectable treat made of mesmerizing lighting, fantastic costumes, and memorable music. This off-beat musical puts a candy-coating on warnings against egotism and self-indulgence, using a spooky lens.
Noah Weisberg’s Willy Wonka dazzles in black top hat, purple velour jacket, and green plaid trousers. Weisberg lands his delicious, snarky retorts every time. When asked where he’s been for years, he simply mutters: “No one called, no one came by…”
We learn from Willy Wonka that entitled children and their parents will get what’s coming to them. In Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, they can expect an early and unusual demise.
The Chocolate Factory is a dangerous place. Beware what you wish for—you might get it.
When Violet Beauregard (Brynn Williams), the gum-chomping dance queen, chews gum against Wonka’s orders, she swells like a balloon and pops, covering her father with violet-colored goo. When Veruca Salt (Jessica Cohen), the glowering billionaire’s daughter, enters the nut-cracking lair of the giant black squirrels, she gets torn apart.
When Mike Teavee (Daniel Quadrino) shrinks to Barbie-doll size, he believes, in error, that he can work Willie’s WonkaVision. Their intriguing, funny stories illustrate the bizarre fate of entitled children, who have been indulged by self-centered parents. The Oompa Loompas sing it best:
It’s awfully modern this malaise.
Whenever Mikey threw a fit,
The TV set would babysit.
The only things that Mike can spell
Are FYI and LOL.
In Act Two, the show takes a gruesome turn—accented with charming songs for complicated joys.
While spoiled children come to tragic endings, sweet children end up happy and in charge. The young Charlie Bucket—humble, poverty-stricken, and hopeful—dreams of visiting Willy Wonka’s spectacular Chocolate Factory. As a delightful Charlie, Henry Boshart is brimming with energy. He epitomizes hope, unspoiled by the poverty around him.
Grandpa Joe, expertly played by James Young, encourages Charlie’s dreams, telling stories of his life as a guard at the fabled factory. Grandpa Joe’s enthusiasm for life (despite being bedridden for 40 years) spreads unconditional love to Charlie and the whole theater.
Except for Charlie, all the children’s roles are played by adults. Charlie and the grown ups playing children cleverly deliver wise lyrics targeting consumerism and self-indulgence. “Charlie” musically destroys selfie-taking delusions, all the while keeping us on the edge of our seats. Bravo! Charlie.
All photos by Joan Marcus
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” —based on the novel by Roald Dahl, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, directed by Jack O’Brien, at SHN Golden Gate Theatre, San Francisco, through Sunday, May 12, 2019. Info: shnsf.com
Cast: Noah Weisberg, Henry Boshart, Clyde Voce, James Young, Amanda Rose, Jennifer Jill Malenke, Claire Neumann, Benjamin Howes, Joel Newsome, Sarah Bowden, Kathy Fitzgerald, Matt Wood,
Nathaniel Hackmann, Jessica Cohen, David Samuel, Brynn Williams, Madeleine Doherty, Daniel Quadrino, Sarah Bowden, Alex Dreschke, Lily Kaufmann, David Paul Kidder, Caylie Rose Newcom, and Borris Anthony York.
Banner photo: Henry Boshart & Noah Weisberg.