Take me back to Willy Wonka’s mystical, musical chocolate factory!

A photo of Neela Noble as Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. CREDIT: DAHLIA KATZ
Neela Noble (pictured) is one of two young actors playing Charlie Bucket.

The musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at The Grand made me feel as though it was only yesterday that I dreamed as deeply as the main character, Charlie Bucket. On Nov. 22, I watched the second night of previews before the musical opened to the general public on Nov. 24. A playful and light-hearted musical, this show had audience members of all ages peeling in their seats over what was to come in this two-and-a-half-hour play. If you read my preview in our last issue, you have an idea of what is to be expected from this candy-filled world and this production at The Grand knew exactly how to get those wow moments from its audience.

Neela Noble played the role of Charlie Bucket on Nov. 22. The 15-year-old Noble immersed herself in this role so seamlessly that every act she was featured in drew the attention of the audience in even further.

Right from the start, the audience is captivated as Charlie writes a letter to Mr. Wonka (Mark Uhre) and folds it into a paper plane, amazing the audience when the plane flies directly over our heads. Applause broke out as no one was expecting the plane to be thrown into the audience. It truly took my breath away. Another wow moment included the addition of a disco ball above the balcony that reflected on the ceiling as a starry night, which also inspired a round of applause from the audience.

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As I mentioned in my preview, I’ve grown to be quite the “realist,” but at heart, I try my best to never hold my dreams back. Seeing young Charlie believe so strongly in her dream of meeting Mr. Wonka, touring his magical factory, surpassing those dreams to even work with him in the end, reminded me how important it is to never give up on your dreams.

Previously, I spoke with cast member Melissa Mackenzie who plays the role of Mrs. Bucket. One of her favourite scenes is the lullaby that she sings to Charlie, reminding not only Charlie but also herself of the importance of dreaming. This was an emotional and heart-touching moment as she sings about how Charlie would be dreaming if her father were still there, a gentle moment that I believe encouraged the audience to never stop dreaming.

A spectacular yet hilarious part of this musical was the excitement Grandpa Joe (David Talbot) embodied when Charlie came home to tell the good news of getting one out of the five golden tickets. This wasn’t just Charlie’s dream, it was also Grandpa Joe’s. This can be seen from the beginning to the end of the play. However, his reaction that he too would be going to the factory with Charlie, was priceless. He went from someone who was bed-ridden and collecting coins for his funeral, to someone who was now possessed to walk again due to his pure excitement.

Another eye-catching moment included the tour of the factory with all the golden ticket winners and their guardians. The unveiling of what had been behind those gates for so long was enchanting to say the least. From the set design giving the illusion of a candy-filled world, to the actors’ amazement of what they too were witnessing, it was really a sight to see. Reflective streamers flowing from the ceiling into a machine on the stage that appeared to be chocolate is just one example of the many ways that the production team made this magical factory feel so real.

The tour of the factory was also where a lot of laughter took place. All the golden ticket winners, with the exception of Charlie, seemed to disappear due to disobedience towards Mr. Wonka. Augustus Gloop (Nathaniel Judah) is the first to go, falling into the same chocolate machine highlighted above, due to his greed. All the stories of disappearing children were hilarious. But Violet (Mikela Marcellin), best-known as the girl who chews gum all the time, tests an elaborate tasty gum that was manufactured by one of Wonka’s machines. While Wonka warns her not to eat it, she does it anyway and the consequences include her growing rapidly until she pops, which was presented in the form of a very detailed puppet portraying the sassy Violet.

There were so many moments that made this production what it was and of course, the Oompa Loompas’ time on the stage was a highlight of mine. While staying for a chat with some of the cast members after the production, I found out that everyday there was a new addition to the Oompa Loompas.

This play certainly exceeded my expectations of bringing a sense of magic back to me and the attention to detail that was evident not only to the audience but also to the cast members is certainly worth a mention. Mackenzie and Talbot both mentioned that the bed where a lot of scenes took place had such thought behind it and attention to detail that it felt as if they were right there. Carvings in the bed were likely not even visible to the audience, but made the set feel more real to the actors.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be performing at The Grand until Dec. 24 and tickets can be purchased online. I encourage readers to book their tickets to see this musical as the semester comes to an end. It’s a perfect outing that contributes to the magic of the holiday season.