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Golden ticket, at last, to a world of pure imagination

Culture

Adapted from the Broadway hit, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Musical will once again attempt to open in Brisbane. A story which springs from darkness, Wonka’s world is a hopeful one of psychedelic proportions, reminding its audience that kindness and creativity is the best antidote to isolation.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is unique because everyone can recall when they first came across it, and which version.

For Stephen Anderson, who will play Wonka in the upcoming musical, he first read Roald Dahl’s 1964 book when he was eight years old and remained fascinated until the Gene Wilder classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, came out on film in 1971.

“It was taped off the television so we could skip the ads. I wore that VHS through. Even as a kid there’s something about that gothic, psychedelic, delicious and dark world that is funny and hopeful that appealed to me as a weird little eight-year-old,” he told InQueensland.

“You end up in this psychedelic world inside the factory where there’s a chocolate waterfall and gum that can turn into a three-course meal and that is truly incredible,” he said.

“It is such a loved story and there’s something about the world of imagination that is so important for our times at the moment.”

Anderson said the heart and the beauty of the story is that it is raucous and psychedelic and expansive but the message is a simple one.

“Wonka says to Charlie that he needs someone to take over the factory who is good and honest and kind. At its heart, that’s what the story is about, and in the world that we find ourselves living in, striving for those qualities is an incredibly relevant message,” he said.

“It leans into that darkness and there’s something really delicious in seeing these repulsive golden ticket winners, who are selfish and greedy and cruel, actually get their comeuppance.

“The production doesn’t shy away from that, and I won’t spoil anything, but the four other children are actually played by adults in this production and Charlie is the only actor played by a child actor. They get what’s coming to them and it’s brilliant,” he said.

Oliver Alkhair as Charlie Bucket in 2019 season of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Musical (Image: Jeff Busby)

The production will attempt round two of getting onto the Brisbane stage this September, after shutting down one day before the first preview in 2020.

“It’s really quite surreal and quite incredible to actually be bringing it back over a year after we finished in Brisbane, doing the season that never got to happen,” said Anderson, cast then as Mr Salt.

Anderson said it was particularly exciting for the four boys cast as Charlie Bucket, Phineaus Knickerbocker (12), Cooper Matthews (12), Flynn Nowlan (13), and Edgar Stirling (12), who had rehearsed for six weeks but could not perform in front of an audience.

“Charlie barely leaves the stage for the entire show. You have a responsibility to be your best, most professional, kindest, funniest self because they work so hard. You think, if an 11-year-old can come and work this hard and be in a good mood all the time then so can I,” said Anderson.

Anderson said the cast and creatives had input into the creation of the Australian show, a privilege rarely shared in big blockbuster productions.

“The original Broadway team came out when we first rehearsed this show and said let’s make a new version for Australia, asked us what we thought the show should be,” he said.

“To have that amount of creative input in a show which has come from Broadway is special. You see something that was tailored for the ensemble who perform it.

“The Buckets are actually Australian in this production, there have been rewrites of some of the book, there’s a new song for Mrs Teavee that was premiered in this production that wasn’t in Broadway.

“It is a version of this show that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Musical is expected to kick off at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre from 2 September to 26 September 2021, for more information visit QPAC’s website. 

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