Photo – Darren Thomas

Who can take a rainbow, make it musical...The Candy Man can!

Brisbane theatre lovers have waited what seems like forever to finally get a taste of stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's fantastical story, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, after the cancellation of last season due to you-know-what. How lucky we are to have the opportunity to feast our eyes on the wonders that await inside the highly mysterious walls of the Wonka factory.

The stalls were filled with young hopefuls, candy fans and a few tiny Veruca Salts' as the curtain opened on Willy Wonka (played by Stephen Anderson) singing 'The Candy Man’, setting the stage for what is destined to be a Whipple Scrumptious time. The story of the poor but ever sweet, Charlie Bucket (on this night played by Flynn Nowlan, but shared with Phineaus Knickerbocker, Cooper Matthews and Edgar Stirling) who dreams of what lies beyond the walls of the Wonka factory was wonderfully brought to life by the young Nowlan, immediately winning the crowd over with his instantly infectious stage presence. When he is sad at missing out on his chance, you feel it in your own heart: when he finally holds up his golden ticket, the crowd had an overwhelming response of joy. A genuine, heart-warming character who believed, “…one chance is all I need” to make his dreams come true. Nowlan had such a strong, sure presence, you would never know he was playing a character. No easy feat, so hats off to this budding young performer! The ensemble came in strong from the get-go with their fun and frivolous outbursts as Charlie (Nowlan) sang about Willy Wonka and followed it throughout the show without fault.

In true Roald Dahl style, no character is outdone in obscurity or personality: the cast have done an excellent job of bringing to life the comical nature of Dahl's characters. They stayed true with Augustus Gloop (Jaxon Graham Wilson) the 'Bavarian Beef-cake' with his never-ending hunger; Veruca Salt (Karina Russell) and her regal sense of entitlement. I was pleasantly surprised by the contemporary take on Violet Beauregard (Tarisai Vushe) who, this time around, came with a pop culture and sensational musical feel as everyone's least favourite kind of person: an 'influencer' of the social-media variety! Mike Teavee (Taylor Scanlan) is a no-good gaming-addicted hacker who thinks the world is beneath him. Combined, they form the worst tour group imaginable as they face the wonders (and perils) of the factory, alongside the sweet Charlie Bucket (Nowlan) and his eccentric Grandpa Joe (Robert Grubb), lead by the infamous Willy Wonka (Anderson). We all know the zany nature of Wonka but Anderson has managed to take the character to an almost new dark angle of humour, truly making him into a character that you love to loathe, whilst still laughing at him (with each passing room you watch him slowly become more ‘gigglishly-grim’!)

The lighting, video projections and set design (headed up by Mark Thompson, Japhy Weideman and Jeff Sugg) matches the whacky, whimsical nature of the show and everything excites the senses as you get taken through the 'Sugar Shangri-La'. Magical candy lands bathed in sparkles and sequin-clad lollies surround the stage while the projections give the atmosphere of a vast jungle; a field of butterflies or optical illusions that make it feel like the room is spinning around. Great, shiny cauldrons that make you feel like you're in a scene of Weird Science or the final great glass elevator. Each little touch immerses you completely into the experience: being lost in the theatrics of the show is possibly the grandest place to be lost.

Mark Thompson (set/costume design) embraced the frivolity in the design of the Oompa Loompas – a much loved and very known part of the joy of Wonka lies within these tribe of little people who are larger than life. Refusing to ruin the joy of surprise but rest assured none in the crowd were disappointed, which was evident when the whole audience burst into an exceedingly long bout of laughter. If you are wise you'll listen to me.

This long-awaited show delivers all you can expect and is a veritable feast for the senses! As much fun as a Wonka Fudgie Wudgie (and as whimsical as a Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight) but unlike an everlasting gobstopper will soon call the curtain and close the gates, so best not to wait another forty years in bed before you get the chance to hold a golden ticket for yourself (all puns intended)!

Who can make a great show? The Candy Man can!

Event details

QPAC in association with John Frost for Crossroads Live, Warner Bros Theatre Ventures, Langley Park Productions and Neal Street Productions presents
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
music Marc Shaiman | lyrics Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman | book David Greig | based on the book by Roald Dahl

Director Jack O’Brien

Venue: Lyric Theatre | QPAC, South Bank, Brisbane QLD
Dates:  2 September to 3 October 2021
Bookings: | 136 246

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