Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Book by David Greg, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, based on the novel by Roald Dahl. Directed by Jack O’Brien. Crown Theatre, Perth WA. Nov 2-27, 2021

Touring shows return to Perth with a bang with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, now playing at the Crown Theatre - a lovely celebration of a show which is certain to delight audiences, judging from the gasps of surprise and joy on Opening Night.

Very, very slick, this production, has oodles of stage magic, even before we enter the wonderful world of Willy Wonka’s factory. There is expert use of projections by Jeff Sugg, and a set full of surprises by Mark Thompson and clever lighting from Japhy Weideman. Basil Twist’s use of puppetry is next level.

Kids of all ages identify with Charlie Bucket, and on Perth’s Opening Night, Flynn Nowlan gave a beautiful, earnest and heart-felt performance as the boy who has little but a family and an imagination - drawing the audience into his world and being our stepping stone to wonder. Audiences at other performances may see the other young men who share this role - Charlie Dunn, Phineaus Knickerbocker or Cooper Matthews.

The other star of the show is Stephen Anderson, who gives us an enigmatic, unpredictable and supremely energetic performance as Willy Wonka. 

Robert Grubb is a feisty, cantankerous and loveable Grandpa Joe, while Lucy Maunder is lovely as Charlie’s overworked mother.

The golden ticket winners and their parents are all delightfully larger-than-life and fabulously flawed. Jaxon Graham Wilson as gluttonous Augustus Gloop and Octavia Barron Martin as his doting mother are gloriously Germanic. Veruca Salt in this incarnation is a spoiled Russian ballerina, beautifully played and danced by Karina Russell and indulged by her father, played with power by Simon Russell. Gum chewing Violet Beauregard is now an Instagram and Pop-Princess, played with bursting passion by Tarisai Vushe and well supported by Madison McKoy as her entrepreneurial dad. Taylor Scanlan blends pre-teen laziness with a hidden gymnastic prowess as Mike Teavee, with Johanna Allen an audience favourite as transplanted 50s housewife (and closet drinker) Mrs Teavee.

A hardworking ensemble play a multitude of roles - including townspeople and reporters, some savagely sweet dancing squirrels and the most delightful Oompa-loompas you will ever see.

Lots of joy in this show, which really is fun-for-all ages. Parents of young children may want to be aware that some of the children (played by adults) on stage meet some rather violent ends (no surprise if you have read the book or seen the films). The effect on stage is absolutely awesome, but may be confronting for some.

An absolute feast of fun, that leaves its audience feeling very fulfilled.

Kimberley Shaw

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