Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

QPAC-Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-photo-by-Darren-ThomasRoald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was first published in 1964. As a child, I saw the film which was released in 1971.

Whilst reportedly, Dahl was displeased with the movie version of his book, I was one of the many, mesmerised children sitting stunned and staring at the cinema screen.

Unlike at this merry musical experience, I don’t recall that we laughed at the incredible world we were gazing into. Perhaps, back then, Charlie’s life was too similar to one that our immigrant parents or selves had lived.

Starring Johnny Depp, a remake of the movie was released in 2005.

Chocolate making was once a secretive, guarded process and producers of the treat were alert to potential agents of secret-seeking espionage.

Eleven year old Charlie Bucket resides in very crushed and crowded poverty near a town with a chocolate factory which has shut down due to previous successful infiltration by spies.

When the fortified, revamped chocolate factory reopens, it celebrates in a big way. The world news announces that hidden inside only five of the countless Wonka bars quickly selling out, are five Golden Tickets!

The tickets will bring the lucky child finders plus a responsible adult, an escorted tour of the famed, mysterious factory. The globe goes mad as the winners are revealed.

Typical of Dahl’s creativity, the children are extreme characters: Augustus Gloop from Germany, Veruca Salt from Russia and Violet Beauregard and Mike Teavee, both from the USA. The final winner of the remaining Golden Ticket is Charlie Bucket from the UK.

In a post-war tale written by a very clever writer who was also a former fighter pilot and spy during WW2, I wondered if he intentionally chose child protagonists from these nations who had featured in the fighting. British born, Dahl has selected Britain as the victorious winner of the global competition.

The musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was performed at Broadway after four years at London’s West End. Marc Shalman composed the musical score and co-wrote the lyrics with fellow American, Scott Wittman.

Here in Oz, after cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, the musical arrived at Queensland Performing Arts Centre, bringing a lovely touch of magic to our city.

On opening night, Charlie was perfectly played by child actor, Flynn Nowlan. I’ve seen an even younger Flynn before, when he was Benji in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert! Flynn shares the role of Charlie with Phineaus Knickerbocker, Cooper Matthews and Edgar Stirling.

It’s clear from the performance program, that this production is artistically, a large undertaking involving a lot of talented beings as duly credited. The hard copy program is itself a special treat.

The musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a stellar cast of performers particularly in all the leading roles. Their bios are as impressive as they are extensive.

NIDA graduate, Stephen Anderson was absolutely superb as Willy Wonka. His performance both encompassed and expressed all the whimsical wonder, colour and sudden switches of mood which epitomise Willy Wonka.

Robert Grubb was a warm and convincing, Grandpa Joe. Lucy Maunder as Mrs Bucket stood out whenever she sang. Her voice and vocal delivery are lovely. The artists playing the children and parents were well cast.

Octavia Barron Martin was a glowing, loving Mrs Gloop, devoted mother of greedy, never satiated, Augustus who was roundly played by Jason Graham Wilson, who is actually an Ipswich boy.

Simon Russell was an imperial, fur coated, strutting Mr Salt, father of the demanding and indulged, Veruca played by Karina Russell. Whilst Karina played a padded, untalented ‘Prima Donna’ type, I could see the fine neck and delicate hands of a real ballerina.

Madison McCoy aptly portrayed a real, cool-cat, let’s-do-a-deal, entrepreneurial, American father. I thought he’d adopted an excellent American accent before later reading that he hails from the USA. His funky, full-on offspring, Violet Beauregard was well played by Tarisai Vushe who kept working it in her deep purple, velour tracksuit.

The immaculate, Mrs Teavee, dressed like a fifties pinup model was played by Johanna Allen. Mrs Teavee was the mother of game playing, screen staring but agile teen, Mike Teavee. His cool dude, device carrying character brought the musical into the computer age.

Those four kid characters ultimately all met their dates with fate…

The sets and props were minimal but effectively utilised. Well thought out for touring in uncertain times. An accomplished team of high tech sound, lighting and special effects experts kept things moving.

QPAC added a nice touch with lollies for sale and an ice cream seller in the theatre during interval. The after party was a delicious delight to sight and bite. I’ve never before beheld a chocolate fountain!

Congratulations to all involved in this delectable production. The anticipated, successful season has just been extended to 3 October 2021.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Lyric Theatre – Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Cultural Precinct, South Bank (Brisbane)
Performance: Sunday 5 September 2021 – 6.00pm
Season continues to 3 October 2021
Information and Bookings:

Image: Stephen Anderson as Willy Wonka (centre) with the Cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – photo by Darren Thomas

Review: Michele-Rose Boylan