An entertaining musical version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in Lied | Arts and theater

L. KENT WOLGAMOTT Lincoln Journal Star

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” began as a 1964 children’s novel by Roald Dahl. It was made into the movie ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ seven years later and returned to the big screen as ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ in 2005, with each production putting a slightly different spin on Charlie’s fantastical story. Buckets, a poor chocolate-loving kid, inside the factory run by the eccentric Willy Wonka.

In 2013, a musical version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” debuted, and it too added something to Dahl’s story to make it suitable for the stage. And as the national touring company demonstrated during the musical’s Nebraska debut at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Thursday, it works just as well there as it does on page and celluloid.

The two most obvious changes for the musical are, firstly, except for Charlie, all of the kids who get the golden tickets that allow them to tour the factory are played by young adults – it’s more of a practical change, having all children played by children would require around 15 young people in the production.

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The second involves these children, who each receive musical presentations when announced as ticket winners – Augustus Gloop and his mother doing a Bavarian gambol, complete with yodeling; the “Queen of Pop” (a very good Zakiya Baptiste) in an 80s pop/r&b style number; spoiled Russian brat Veruca Salt doing ballet; and Mike Teevee and his booze-loving mother (from Iowa) singing about their lives with modern appliances and wine.

These intros make up the bulk of the first act of the musical, which by design is meant to be explanatory, with Charlie (a convincing Kai Edgar) telling his family’s story in “Willie Wonka! Willie Wonka! and setting up his desire to see the factory and his quest for the last golden ticket.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” however, comes to life in act two, which belongs to long, lanky, top-hatted Cody Garcia, who is a perfectly funny, slightly sinister Willy, and the Oompa Loompas, who were acclaimed first. when they appeared on stage.

Cleverly created, with actors dressed in jumpsuits and moving the oompas’ little legs with their arms as their faces pop out of costumes topped with tufts of orange hair, the Oompas steal the show every time they take the stage.

The staging is as inventive as the costumes, especially in the second act, where the sets reveal the world of candies, dancing squirrels and, at the end, Willy’s glass elevator (which was part of an unfinished suite by Dahl).

The musical is also more than a little self-aware – at one point there’s a line that “one day it’s going to make a great story” and intentionally works out of time, with Charlie’s family. living in the Depression era or maybe English post-war poverty, Mike Tevee’s mother dressed as a 50s housewife and references to TikTok, which is as contemporary as it gets.

It all kind of works together to make the production entertaining for the whole audience, from the parents and grandparents who brought the youngsters to the show – and got jokes and references that flew over the under-10 set. — and the kids who clearly had a great time watching history come to life on stage.

It’s perhaps the best measure of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ as the entertainment is that it does what is truly a dark story – the other four children come to some pretty gruesome, albeit very funny – never macabre ends. or scary.

With two one-hour acts and a 20-minute intermission, younger viewers were able to stay out late on what is usually a school night. That won’t be a problem when “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” plays Friday and Saturday.

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