Theatre Review: ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

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

Chocolate, Oompa Loompas, golden tickets, factories, dreams, and big imagination are all present in the brand new touring production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” which officially opened at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre on September 25. Excitement filled the air in the theatre as the lights dimmed, the orchestra roared, and the tale of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory came to life before our very eyes. This show is truly confectionary magic.

. . .confectionary magic. . .this sweet production will be melting the hearts of audiences all over America.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a musical that is based on the children’s novel by Roald Dahl, and the film starring Gene Wilder. The creative team reimagined the show, originally produced on London’s West End and directed by Sam Mendes in 2013. Upon it’s Broadway transfer, the show was altered for Broadway audiences and not only includes new original songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, but also includes some songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley that were featured in the Wilder film.

This show hits all the major story points that audiences will know from the book and the film adaptations. Charlie Bucket (Henry Boshart) is a poor boy who lives with his mother and grandparents. He is fascinated with the mysterious chocolate factory that is located in his town, and obsesses over how to get to see inside it. One day he notices that a new Wonka candy bar franchise has opened in his neighborhood, and when he enters, he befriends the shopkeeper. The Shopkeeper is Willy Wonka (Noah Weisberg) in disguise, and he is looking to find his new replacement to take over the factory. He places five golden tickets in his candy bars and the world explodes, looking for the chance to enter the factory.

Some of the high points in the production are the introductions to all of the other children who find the golden tickets, played in this production by adults. “More of Him To Love” the introduction to Augustus Gloop is one of the funniest things I have seen in years. I laughed so hard that I could barely breathe.  Not to be outdone, Mike Teevee’s introduction in the song “That Little Man Of Mine” is the definition of hilarity. The performance is so subtle that you have to listen closely so you will hear all the genius one liners that really make the song entertaining.

Mark Thompson’s scenic and costume design are wonderful, and they keep the magic alive and well throughout the entire production. Paired with Jeff Sugg’s projection design, the two design elements complement each other nicely and add to the overall experience. The chocolate room, the Bucket house, the candy store, and all the other sets effortless work hand in hand to seamlessly tell this magical story.

Basil Twist’s puppet design in the show is spectacular. That is all I will say. I don’t want to give away the surprise.

Leading the show as the “Candy Man” is Noah Weisberg. Weisberg is a real song and dance man. He performs well, and has a fun presence on stage, yet he makes a character that we all know, unique. His strong point is in the best song of the show, “It Must Be Believed To Be Seen.” He ends the first act on a high note, and his energy travels into act two where all the hi jinx take place.

Henry Boshart is fantastic as Charlie. The level of professionalism that this young man has is stellar and his stage presence and persona are great. He takes to the stage and as the only child performer in the show, deserves to be there. He sings incredibly well, and does not disappoint.

James Young is the perfect choice for Grandpa Joe. He brings a comedic flare to the role that is unique and entertaining. He has such a young spirit and is full of energy, even though he is portraying a ninety year old man.

The ensemble backs up these wonderful actors, and there is not one person on stage that does not deserve to be there. I think I can say with great confidence that this sweet production will be melting the hearts of audiences all over America. Go see this show!

Running Time: 2 Hours 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” runs until September 29, 2018 and is presented at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.

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.