Broadway is back in Lincoln and sweeter than ever with the current nationwide touring production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory making a short stopover to delight audiences of all ages.
The musical is based on the beloved children’s book written by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was adapted into two major films before this musical adaptation. With a book of David Greigand featuring the music and lyrics of the dynamic duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittmanthe brilliant musical minds behind other smash hits, including the Tony Award-winning musical Hairspray, the bar was set before the curtain went up.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory features an imaginative setting, an enjoyable storyline with jokes that resonate regardless of age, and a solid musical score that helps create Wonka’s world. Can’t say I left the theater Thursday night humming one of the tunes from the show, but they’re working for the production. The harmonies are pleasant and sometimes even thrilling in the first act, but the music takes a turn in the second act and almost feels like a separately written score in some ways. The first act features numbers for the Golden Ticket winners and their families, as well as the hardworking ensemble who play multiple characters throughout the show. The second act, however, heavily ignores the voices of the first act ticket winners and focuses primarily on those of the Oompa Loompas and Willy Wonka. I liked the first act, but the second left me on my hunger. I missed the excitement and sheer numbers of the first act, and expected more magic surrounding the misadventures that occur at Wonka’s house throughout the tour. That being said, it’s still beautiful to see.
What really drove the show for me Thursday night was the talented cast on stage Thursday night. Cody Garcia was a delight as man of the hour, Willy Wonka. His voice was impressive, with a soothing tone and extended range. His character was quite an ode to those who came before him, while allowing him to make his own mark as Wonka and leave audiences angry with his line and mannerisms. He’s a solid choice to lead this cast on stage every night. But Wonka wouldn’t work without a Charlie Bucket of equal talent and skill, and director Matt Lenz found only in Kai Edgar, the Charlie for the Thursday night opening show. Kai’s vocal control is something most performers spend years trying to perfect, and his upper register was simply pure and not strained at all, as evidenced by the glorious vibrato that echoes through the house during his actual number. headlight, “Willy Wonka! Willy Wonka!”
To complete the other two main actors of Charlie’s family are Claire Leiden and Steve McCoy as Mrs. Bucket and Grandpa Joe respectively. They were both enjoyable to watch, McCoy’s humor resonating greatly with young audiences and Leyden’s motherly approach imbuing kindness even in the back of the theatre. Both have strong voices and very likeable characters.
But what’s the story of Willy Wonka and Charlie Bucket without the other four recipients of those highly sought-after golden tickets? The presentation of the ticket winners was a highlight for me, with each recipient and their guardian being introduced in their own song. Thursday night’s stars were Camille Hampton, who brilliantly played Violet Beauregarde for the evening, and Kaitie Faye Francis, who made me laugh out loud more than once with her brilliant portrayal of Mrs. Teavee. Both performers have such strong, well-developed characters and incredible voices that almost had me jumping out of my chair and clapping.
While the musical has a few minor hiccups in my opinion, it would be a big hiccup for Lincoln audiences not to take a chance on this colorful and enjoyable production. The decor and costumes are magnificent. The cast is wonderfully talented. And the script is fun for families young and old. Don’t miss your chance to grab your own golden ticket and tour the wonders of Wonka’s famed Chocolate Factory as the Lied Performing Arts Center presents the nationwide touring production of the popular Broadway hit, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Production photo by Jeremy Daniel