There’s a sweet flavour to this stage adaptation (Princess of Wales Theatre-Toronto) of the1971 movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (starring Gene Wilder). A remake with Johnny Depp was released in 2005 (under the original title). The original source is the popular 1964 children’s book by Roald Dahl.
Young Charlie Bucket lives hand-to-mouth with his mother and his four grandparents in the hard knock of a house. The chocolate-obsessed Charlie idolizes the crafty Willy Wonka, the eccentric capitalist who seeks to monopolize the world’s chocolate supply. Willy’s burdened by slow sales of his candy, so as a marketing ploy, five bars contain gold tickets entitling the winners to tour the factory and a chance of receiving a lifetime supply of Willy Wonka chocolate.
Charlie gets one of the ticketed bars, and accompanied by his eccentric Grandpa Joe, joins an an odd ball quartet of fellow winners: a sausage-devouring German, a privileged ballet-dancing Russian princess; a bubble gum-chewing budding rap star; and a techno geek. Its a colourful blending of cultures, unusual characters (live and manipulated puppets), songs and clever choreography,
I was particularly impressed with pint sized dynamo Henry Boshart (who looks about 11 years old,) who portrays the title character (in rotation with two other youngsters). Boshart fills the role with full authority, vocally strong, sturdy acting and self assurance, indicating a future theatre career.
The onstage show opens with “The Candy Man,” the pop music hit by Sammy Davis Jr. heard in the 1971 film. A visual feast emerges as the two movie adaptations play up the fantasy and special effects utilizing various devices while creating a harmonious whole. The subterranean caverns of the Wonka factory (the workers are called Oompa Loompas) are realized through projections (an eye-candy confection).
A lavish musical bonanza, “Charlie and the Chocolate factory” reinforces the morality play aspect of Dahl’s book in which vice is punished and virtue gets its edible reward; great for kids, appreciated by adults.
Got a sweet tooth? With pure imagination, Charlie’s adventures at Willy’s chocolate factory is a sugar-coated delight playing at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto through January 6th.