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Nov 13, 2021

BroadwayLive Insider: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Opening Night

By Broadway Live INSIDER - Michael J. Miller

The long, dark pandemic intermission of the Broadway Live series came back to brilliant life tonight as the masked masses were gleefully and gluttonously rewarded with a scrumptious all-you-can-tweet dessert bar of a musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Numerous news reports in recent weeks of Broadway reopening to gleeful audiences and grateful artists made me anxious, knowing that our time was coming soon. Tonight, the near-capacity crowd at the Lexington Opera House got our chance to join in the national applause.

The scrumptious feeling of Broadway being back likely makes the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s classic even more sweeter than it might be otherwise. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory premiered in London’s West End in 2013 to much success and transferred to Broadway in 2017, where it was met with somewhat less enthusiasm. By many accounts, this touring production makes up for some of the misses of the Broadway turn and is being met with sweet success.

The candy core of the original story remains the same: Reclusive chocolatier genius Willy Wonka announces plans to open up his mysteriously magical factory to five people fortunate enough to find golden tickets in Wonka candy bars. Among those is our hero, Charlie Bucket, a poor boy with a rich spirit who more than deserves a taste of the sweet life. 

The other four golden ticket winners get some 21st-century updates: The German gourmand Augustus Gloop and his doting mother are even more gluttonous ways. Augustus’ mother here is played with gusto by Audrey Belle Adams, known to Lexington audiences from her various roles when she was here in school at UK. 

Bratty Veruca Salt is now a Russian ballerina-in-training with an uber wealthy dad ready to spoil her totally rotten. Veruca’s “Nutcracker”-esque run-in with Wonka’s nut-sorting squirrels supplies a ghoulish (perhaps even gruesome) Act 2 highlight.

The bubblegum smacking Violet Beauregarde is an obnoxious wannabe social media influencer and Mike Tevee has been updated to a video-game addicted hacker whose alcoholic pill-popping mother lets him do his own thing when she isn’t dosing him with his own mood-altering drugs. Whether one finds these character “updates” clever or upsetting for a number of social reasons I’ll leave up to you.

The true sense of “Pure Imagination” comes to complete fruition with fantastic stagecraft in Act 2, when the five golden ticket winners and their adult guardians FINALLY enter the Chocolate Factory. 

Act 2 is an absolute marvel, with Mark Thompson’s succulent sets, Jeff Sugg’s glorious projection designs and especially Basil Twist’s puppetry. Act 1 has a lot of backstory to cover before the real fun begins, and sometimes felt like one of those long lines at Disney World where they keep you somewhat entertained until you finally board Space Mountain.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory soars when the factory doors open.

You’ll be very glad you scored a golden ticket.