Charlie and the Chocolate Factory | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Emerald City Theatre Company, at the Apollo Theater. In this children's musical, the greatest candy factory in the city, run by madman Willy Wonka, is giving tours to five lucky children. Four of them are symbols of bad habits---there's a glutton, a gum chewer, an obsessive television watcher, and one girl, Veruca Salt (a gleaming Brooke Sherrod), who's simply spoiled. Then there's Charlie (Dan Forsythe): honest, hardworking, and, in this production, utterly boring. The four brats all have terrible things happen to them, while Charlie, who obeys (almost) every directive any adult gives, wins everything. Like most works based on the stories of wacky and satiric Roald Dahl, this adaptation by Chicagoan Richard R. George has a dark, biting edge--but, unfortunately, little of Dahl's humor. (The day I attended many children were restless by the end of the hour.) This is too bad, because when the cast relaxes or makes asides tailored to a Chicago audience, it's wickedly funny. The actors are highly energetic, and most give cute portrayals of stock types. Wonka, played by Shawn Pfautsch, is the enigmatic exception--as in the book and the 1971 movie version, his laissez-faire attitude toward the fates of the lost children is both funny and disturbing. The best part of the production is the Oompa Loompas, who grumpily dance and sing songs familiar from the movie.

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