Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Reminds Audiences that Dreams Can Come True

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”

Roald Dahl

Lied Center, Thursday, January 27, 2022, 7:30 pm.

By Jamie Bullins

“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination…” 

It is in that moment that the memories of the magic of this story come flooding back. The power of story and imagination can truly boggle the mind. It even can take you away momentarily from a pandemic-ridden fog of a world that once was most definitely more receptive to magic than it has been the last two years. It’s been two years? 

We don’t get to that moment until Act II, but it is worth the wait and there are grin-inspiring moments in the familiar exposition. I have to admit that when Grandpa George pleads for someone to “kill him” after Grandma Georgina’s explanation of the digestive effects that the cabbage surprise will provide, I was in for the ride. I guess fart jokes are still funny: I’m definitely a 14-year-old boy at heart sometimes. 

The cast and the production elements are top notch and transformative throughout. Cody Garcia is dazzling as the candy man himself and comes complete with the requisite Gene Wilder doo. William Goldsman brings a great innocence and a pure childlike hope to Charlie. I could list every single member of the ensemble and laud their performances, each and every one. You won’t be disappointed with the embodiment of the characters in this kooky world of candy. Each brings their own peculiarity and quirk to the story. Even each Oompa-Loompa has their own personality when they could easily have been blend into a kind of single larger-sized Loompa. Speaking of the Oompa-Loompas, when they first made it to the stage, a little girl in the row ahead of me literally jumped for joy at their appearance. She was mesmerized. And I’m pretty sure a grown-up behind me gasped out loud. 

Now, I should mention that this adaptation may not be as family friendly as one might expect. This is not the 1971 film. There are some additions intended to modernize the story that shift it slightly more into a PG-rated world. Roald Dahl was well known for his dark sense of humor, even in his children’s tales. Augustus is fond of suggestively flopping around his sausage. Violet Beauregarde’s choreography is a tiny bit adult at times for a kid character. Mrs. Teavee freely shares her medicinal maintenance agenda that helps her face the challenges of being Mike Teavee’s mom. And those adorable Oompa-Loompa’s have quite a deviously mischievous streak. Not to mention the graphic nature with which some of the kids are dispatched. So, those elements aside, just wanted parents to be prepared before you take your tiny humans along. 

Charlie is a fantastic opportunity to recall that dreams can come true. I personally believe that. So, for a little while last evening, there was a rekindling of the imagination and a respite from a current dulled world. “Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.” I’m inspired by this new musical to return to my previous experiences with this story. Another reading of the book, and probably a fresh viewing of the movie adaptations (yes, even that 2005 version with Johnny Depp) is now slated for my weekend entertainment. 

The Lied is certainly following advised protocols to protect the audience and have not hesitated during these challenging days to think of the community first. 

Thank you, Lied Center, keep telling your stories. 

If you go: You can catch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  January 28 at 7:30 pm and January 29 at 2:00 and 7:30 pm. Reservations are encouraged and can be made online.  

Jamie Bullins is a member of the faculty in the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, since the fall of 2017. He is an Educator, Scenographer, Director, and Playwright and has been at it for almost 30 years now. 

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