Friday, March 24, 2023
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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Christian Borle & the Oompa Loompas

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

“Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew - Cover it with choc’late and a miracle or two?” Christian Borle as Willy Wonka can! ‘Cause he mixes it with love and wacky humor with deft comic timing splashed with a dose of Groucho Marx and Mad Hatter in this uneven but purely entertaining production at the Lunt–Fontanne Theatre for the kids and for those of us who want to be kids again.

The above quoted lyric is from “The Candy Man” – written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly for the Warner Brothers movie upon which this musical is based from the novel by Roald Dahl.

It wisely opens the show directed with panache and slap-shtick by Jack O’Brien who also wisely includes the beautiful “Pure Imagination” in Act II.

The rest of the score is written by the dynamic duo of HAIRSPRAY – Marc Shaiman (Music and Lyrics) and Scott Wittman (Lyrics) with a book by David Greig that teeters towards the brink of ridiculousness that resolves with a lovely message – to create something out of nothing – to use your imagination and make something beautiful.

To be honest, to be content with whatever you have and yet never lose the ability to dream, to be able to use ones imagination and make life brighter, happier, zanier, funnier and just plain good.

With tons of kids excited and expectant in the audience. The feeling is contagious. How wonderful to be able to feel what a child feels and enjoy for the first time – seeing ideas come to life on stage.

Just imagine you are that kid again. And enjoy the pleasures that are about to unfold in this adventure that Charlie Bucket (a terrific Jake Ryan Flynn who alternates with two other young boys) goes on in his quest to find one of the golden tickets to visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory where the totally wonderful and hysterical Oompa Loompa’s work.

A chorus of miniature puppet bodies with human actors heads created by Basil Twist (who definitely lives up to his name) that sing and tap dance to some zany choreography by Joshua Bergasse.

Imagine seeing some awful kids on stage getting their just desserts and I don’t mean chocolate. The obese sausage boy, the vain ballerina, the obnoxious Queen of Pop, Mike TeaVee and their equally obnoxious parents who have found their “Golden Tickets” along with Charlie – an honest, earnest and totally endearing Jake Ryan Flynn who is accompanied by his delightful Grandpa Joe (played by understudy Paul Slade Smith filling in beautifully for John Rubenstein) while his mother (Emily Padgett) remains at home – cooking leftover cabbage and doing laundry to make ends meet. Guess who comes out on top?

Imagine a Tonka Toy set with gaudy colored costumes (Mark Thompson). Imagine witnessing wonderful special effects. With the amazing Christian Borle leading the way down the rabbit hole, so to speak. Cavorting and singing with strong vocals and settling down to deliver a heartfelt message for Charlie on how to get along in life.

Just seeing all those kids wide eyed and attentive eating up all the goodies on stage is worth the price of admission. Intermission is like being in the middle of school recess. And it’s all good.

It has to be believed to be seen!

Photo: Joan Marcus