The theatergoing throng that filled the Segerstrom Center for the Arts at Tuesday’s opening of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was heavily populated with youngsters, many making their first acquaintance with the show.
It’s billed as a “new musical,” but the story itself has been around since 1964 when Roald Dahl created it as a novel. Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp have headlined two movie versions, and now it’s a stage sensation with all the appropriate bells and whistles.
It’s more than likely been toned down since opening night, but that initial performance was marred by excessive volume with many audience members covering their ears. My companion and I relocated to the back row after intermission.
The familiar story of young Charlie Bucket touring Willy Wonka's chocolate emporium with four other, quite horrible kids receives a 21st century flash treatment in this throbbing stage version, directed by Jack O’Brien and featuring a chorus line of Oompa Loompas getting the “Avenue Q” version of animation.
The role of Charlie is so demanding that it’s shared by three youngsters performing alternately. Tuesday’s Charlie was a charming Henry Boshart, who navigated the tricky stage mission like a seasoned professional.
Noah Weisberg takes on the central role of Willy Wonka with a sly, evasive interpretation as he weeds out the bad apples of the flock while spouting reverse parables in a thoroughly enjoyable performance.
Charlie’s 90-year-old, but-still-spry grandfather, is ably presented by James Young. Amanda Rose is a delight as the boy’s hard-working mother who struggles to support a family of six.
The real scene stealers are the other four kids with golden tickets in their hands and various forms of greed, avarice, gluttony or vanity in their hearts. Of these, the most impressive is Jessica Cohen as the narcissistic Russian ballerina Veruca Salt, who has never learned the meaning of the word “nyet.”
Also prominent is Daniel Quadrino as Mike Teavee, a belligerent brat hooked on the boob tube. Matt Wood as the ravenous Augustus Gloop and Brynn Williams as gum-chewing fanatic Violet Beauregarde complete the satirical lineup.
Mark Thompson’s scenic and costume designs lend a rich, colorful touch, but Andrew Keister’s booming sound plot needs toning down if it hasn’t been already.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” contains little story surprise after a half-century, but youngsters experiencing the show for the first time will be truly gobsmacked by this magical journey.
IF YOU GO
What: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30, Sundays at 1 and 6:30 until June 9
Cost: Starts at $40
Information: (714) 556-2787; scfta.org
Tom Titus reviews local theater for TimesOC.