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Despite a Lackluster Second Act, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ Remains a Visual Treat

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Based on Roald Dahl’s novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” is a psychedelic visual spectacle that is sure to please all age groups. With its cotton candy palette, trippy set pieces, and mature tone, the Broadway musical is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. At least, up until the second act.

Adapted by David Greig, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” repackages the classic story of Charlie Bucket (Henry Boshart), a poor boy who dreams of seeing Willy Wonka (Noah Weisberg) and his grand chocolate factory. When the opportunity for a private tour by Wonka himself arises, Charlie and his Grandpa Joe (James Young) hope for the esteemed Golden Ticket into the Chocolate Factory.

You may remember the novel from elementary school, but the musical sheds new light on the story. The psychedelic set pieces and lighting will leave viewers feeling as if they had experienced, as one viewer describes as, “a fever dream.” The trippy new adaptation of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” comes with some added maturity. Rarely shying away from the brutal side of the factory, the musical explores themes of income inequality, labor exploitation, child abuse, over-medication, and murder — all in a way that comes off with just the right amount of humor to pass off as comedic.

The music varies from musical theater, R&B, 2000s punk, and EDM – a lot, but the diverse musical styles never feel out of place. One song in particular, “If Your Father Were Here,” by Mrs. Bucket (Amanda Rose), was particularly moving, generating many tearful sniffles in the audience. This was followed up by my favorite, “It Must Be Believed to Be Seen” by Willy Wonka and ensemble – the final song of the first act. The number is powerful in the suspense and anticipation it builds up for the tour of the chocolate factory. Unfortunately, the second act fails to deliver.

The lackluster second act is underwhelming as if the musical lost its focus and forgot what it was supposed to be about. What was built up to be this majestic, slightly ominous factory, becomes one of the most disappointing sets of the entire show. How is it possible that I was more impressed by the small chocolate shop in the opening number? Even Charlie’s house had more detail than the abysmal factory. Beyond the set, the second act blurs together as a mashup of random scenes. Throughout the entire second act, I felt like I was waiting for a redemption that never comes. I kept waiting for a climax that would change my opinion but instead was given a hastily slapped together conclusion. The conclusion is unsatisfying in its attempt to make Charlie the “protagonist” (who remains passive throughout the entire second act), the center of the story again.

Overall, I still enjoyed “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” for its strong first act and visual spectacle. Unlike Wonka’s patented gum, which promises Violet (Brynn Williams) a full course meal, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a meal that forgets about its entree. I give this musical three Wonka Bars out of five.

VOX teens had the opportunity to attend press night of Broadway in Atlanta’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at the Fox Theatre thanks to the generosity of our community partner Most Valuable Kids of Metro Atlanta.

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