Review by Lia Cocks
This is the fourth production for Adelaide Youth Theatre [AYT] this year and we haven’t even hit the month of May yet!
Premiering the spectacular musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the enormous Influencers Theatre must have been a huge undertaking, but these seasoned professionals took it in their stride.
The classic tale, founded on the 1964 children’s novel by famed writer Roald Dahl, was written by playwright David Greig, with original score composed by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman.
Based on the Broadway version of the musical, the show presents a more contemporary version of the original story.
Eleven year-old Charlie Bucket, his mother, and four grandparents all live in poverty in a small house outside of town.
In his second major role, young Harrison Thomas expresses the heart and soul of young Bucket and is a delight to watch.
Charlie's Grandpa Joe tells him about the legendary and eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka and all the wonderful sweets he made until the other chocolatiers sent in spies to steal his secret recipes, forcing Wonka to close the factory to outsiders.
Benjamin Gray is fantastic as Grandpa Joe and personifies the kind, patient, war veteran who used to work at the Wonka factory to a tea!
Providing some comic relief are Lucy Newman, Eloise Morriss and Adam Roling as Grandma Josephine, Grandma Georgina and Grandpa George respectively.
There were some beautiful, tender moments between Charlie and Mrs Bucket, played exquisitely by Zara Blight. Her rendition of ‘If Your Father Were Here’ was earnest, angelic and soaring all at once.
The next day, the newspaper announces that Wonka is re-opening the factory and has invited five lucky children to come on a tour after finding a Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar. The first four golden tickets are found by gluttonous Augustus Gloop [played hilariously by Nicholas Latella], spoiled Veruca Salt; a rightly bratty Zahli Linke, chewing gum-addicted Violet Beauregarde [perfectly pitched by Zoe Kerr] and television [and mobile phone] addict Mike Teavee, portrayed with textbook teenage angst/boredom/moody by Shae Olsson Jones.
One day, Charlie sees a dollar bill left behind in the local Candy Shop, so with that he buys a Wonka Bar and miraculously finds the last Golden Ticket. The ticket says he can bring one family member with him and Grandpa Joe agrees to go.
On the day of the tour, Wonka welcomes the five children and their parents inside the factory, which is a wonderland of confectionery creations that defy logic. They also meet the Oompa-Loompas, a race of small people who help him operate the factory.
Their first entrance drew gasps of glee and applause aplenty as they sung, danced and acted their hearts out!
During the tour, the four children give in to their impulses and are ejected from the tour in darkly comical ways.
Augustus gets sucked up the pipe to the Fudge Room after drinking from the Chocolate River, Violet blows up into a giant blueberry after chewing an experimental stick of three-course dinner gum, Veruca is thrown down the garbage chute after trying to capture one of the nut-testing squirrels and is considered a "bad nut," and Mike gets shrunk down to the size of a chocolate bar after being sent into Chocolate Television. The Oompa-Loompas sing about their poor behaviour each time disaster strikes.
With only Charlie remaining in the end, Wonka congratulates him for "winning" the factory. Wonka explains that the whole tour was designed to help him secure a good person to serve as an heir to his business and Charlie was the only child whose inherent goodness allowed him to pass the test. They ride the Great Glass Elevator to the top of the factory where Charlie proclaims ‘I’m a chocolatier!’ to rapturous ovation!
Special mention to the fantastic performers portraying the adults in the show;
Charlee Hoff as Mrs Gloop, Angus Hoff as Mr Salt, Lorenzo Ravida as Mr Beauregard and Melanie Cowmeadow making her AYT debut as Mrs TeaVee [she was a fab standout!]
It goes without saying, a very special talent is required to bring to life the character of Willy Wonka, and Oscar Bridges delivered.
Charismatic, mischievous and engaging, he was able to embody the enigmatic character and switch between serious and funny on a dime. His voice was glorious – as sweet as chocolate, soft as a marshmallow and just like ‘liquid sunshine’.
As always, the production team manage to pull off miracles, with Director Ray Cullen at the helm, his Choreographer Jayden Prelc and Assistant Choreographer Tayla McDougall [their work on this one was an absolute delight – especially with the Oompa Loompas!], Musical Direction by Serena Cann and Ben Francis and their incredible tour de force of an orchestra!
The set and lighting was a sight to behold – first with the home of the Buckets; a derelict creation that defines their living quarters, then with the jaw dropping graphics and projections setting the scenes. The beginning of Act 2 where the curtain released to reveal the inside of the factory was superb!
Adelaide Youth Theatre, you should be bursting with pride and honour in the way you and your team brought this long loved story to life. I know Roald Dahl is.