John Szablewski Previews

First Look: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

The Original Broadway Cast of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Buffalo is very lucky to be one of the largest markets in the United States for touring Broadway shows. Producers see this, and they see that the audiences are always warm and welcoming of new work. Buffalo has also had the opportunity to be the launching point for a few huge Broadway hits when they take to the road. “Finding Neverland,” “On Your Feet,” and now “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” can add its name to the list of shows that started their travels in the City of Good Neighbors.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is based on the children’s novel by Roald Dahl, and tells the story of young Charlie Bucket, who finds a Golden Ticket in a candy bar, and wins a tour of the mysterious chocolate factory owned by the infamous, Willy Wonka. Charlie takes the tour with his Grandpa Joe, and four other rotten kids. At the end, Charlie will see that he won more than just a trip to a chocolate factory.

“It is very exciting brand to be part of,” says Mark Shacket, General Manager for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” “I don’t think that there is anyone alive who doesn’t know the story of Charlie. It is a huge story to bring to life.”

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was first introduced as a stage musical on the West End in London in 2013, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Whittman, who brought us “Hairspray.” The show was directed by Sam Mendes, right around the time he was finishing up directing “Sky Fall.” After running for almost four-years, it was re-worked for Broadway audiences and opened in 2017 in New York under the direction of Jack O’Brien. The show ran almost nine months on Broadway. Now, it is starting it’s first National Tour.

“Thanks to the tax credit given by New York State, we are able to start our tour here in Buffalo, a town that is so supportive of live theatre,” says Shacket. Shacket is a UB alum, and was also the General Manager of the Broadway show. “It has been a tedious last few weeks, but all the hard work is going to pay off.”

Four weeks before the actors even come to Buffalo, they spend long days learning the show in a studio in New York City. “The cast worked with the creative team on the music, and the choreography, and they learn the entire show.”

About halfway through the rehearsal process for the actors, crews begin loading the show in at Shea’s. “We spend two weeks building the set,s getting lights set up and testing equipment,” says Shacket. “Once the cast arrives, we spend two full weeks in tech, making sure that everything is right, all the cues are correct, and we keep running the show to make everything perfect. Then we will do nine performances in Buffalo.”

Shacket says that the director and the authors reimagined the show for Broadway audiences, and added some of the songs from the film starring Gene Wilder. “This show is very different, and still very imaginative.”

When it comes to Roald Dahl’s stories, there is a certain nostalgia that is connected to them, and there is a high order of expectation as well. Audiences expect magic and fantasy. “Many people ask me how are we going to bring the Oompa Loompa’s to the stage. I don’t tell them how, but I’ll say that Basil Twist did wonderful work.”

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” begins it’s National Tour in Buffalo, September 21 and runs until the 29, at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.