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Semi-Sweet ‘Chocolate Factory’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The new Images and Imagination Children’s Theater troupe makes an inauspicious debut at the Hudson Theatre with its shoestring production of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” adapted for stage by Richard R. George.

Narrator Christopher Wells sets it up invitingly with a storyteller’s verve and a nice rendition of “Candy Man,” but what follows is a poor copy of the movie musical “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” except for the dubious addition of obligatory rap segments and a return to the book for a scene that doesn’t fit the music.

Directed by Scott Strand, the principal adult actors try too hard at playing children, particularly Steve Lauson’s treacly Charlie and Diane Atkin’s shouting Veruca Salt. Kevin Hincker plays Willy Wonka with sinister whimsy, an unsettling mix, although he has comical moments. The look of the production, in the basement-like space, is strictly homemade.

* “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m., Sunday, 10 a.m., through April 11. $6 on weekdays ; $15 for adults and $8 for children on weekends. (213) 614-9763.

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