THE BASICS: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, the Broadway musical, based on the Warner Brothers movies at the very start of a national tour is at Shea’s Performing Arts Center, through Saturday, September 29 with only a few shows left: Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8:00 and Saturday but only at 2:00 p.m. (final show). 646 Main Street (716-847-1410) www.sheas.org
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Warner Brothers had success with two movies based on the Roald Dahl story of the boy with the golden ticket, 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder and then 2005’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” starring Johnny Depp. So, it wasn’t much of a stretch to launch a musical, according to a conversation with the man in charge of finding Warner properties to put on stage, Mark Kaufman.
And now, the national tour has begun in Buffalo (the third show to “tech” at Shea’s in as many years). CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY has songs from the original film, including “Pure Imagination,” “The Candy Man,” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” alongside a new score from the songwriters of HAIRSPRAY and, according to Kaufman, a brand new song for the national tour which is premiering here in Buffalo.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: One advantage to national tours beginning in Buffalo is that we get to enjoy a very high level of energy in a fresh production. It must be said that all of the principles on stage were very skilled, including Noah Weisberg as Willy Wonka, Henry Boshart (on the night I went) as young hopeful Charlie Bucket, and James Young as his Grandpa Joe, but the energy and precision of the ensemble (chorus) was notable right from the start in two production numbers: “The Candy Man” and “Willy Wonka! Willy Wonka!”
Then several of the highest points came when the Oompa Loompas appeared. [Interesting note: Microsoft’s spell check has no problem with spelling out “Oompa Loompas.”] They were small-ish creations that used the “real” heads of their puppeteers (members of the ensemble) while Oompa Loompa arms and legs were manipulated, as needed, by those ensemble folks wearing traditional Japanese Bunraku puppeteer costumes.
As more and more Broadway shows turn to projections for their sets, the bar keeps getting higher and higher when it comes to that old razzle dazzle, and this show has kept pace. It is a visual tour-de-force.
UP NEXT: According to Shea’s: Tickets for HAMILTON will be available online through Ticketmaster Verified Fan®, on Friday, October 5 at 8:00 a.m. Verified Fan is a new fan-facing technology from Ticketmaster that allows pre-registered fans to unlock access to tickets without competing against scalpers and bots. Ticketmaster Verified Fan® registration begins now and will close Tuesday, October 2 at 10:00 p.m. Visit www.hamiltonbuf.tmverifiedfan.com to register. Those who registered will be notified by Ticketmaster via email on Thursday, October 4 if they have been selected for the Verified Fan on sale. The Ticketmaster Verified Fan® on sale will be available for purchases online only. Tickets will be available for performances November 20 – December 9, 2018. There is a maximum purchase limit of four (4) tickets per household for the engagement.
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF runs from October 25 to November 4.
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!