‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ awakens inner child in revisited story


By Dennis Maddux-Phillips, Guest Reviewer

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Introducing a child to a classic novel or the magic of theatre, bestows an unforgettable gift that forever remains remembered and special.

Fortunately, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts teamed with Broadway Across America, Sabates Eye Center’s Broadway Series, and American Theatre Guild presents the perfect opportunity to enlighten children, and one’s inner child, with an outstanding production of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Whether your first encounter was on the printed page, or manipulated by Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp on the silver screen (or DVD), I’m sure you are one of the millions who instantly fell in love with this Roald Dahl whimsical yet dark tale. How could anyone not cheer for Charlie and his grandfather as they dream of getting that extra special golden ticket that will allow them to tour the infamous chocolate mecca of Mr. Willy Wonka?

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Once it’s acquired, their world, and yours, will never be the same. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” delivers the magic with music, dance, and special effects that bring the story to renewed life.

Now, on its second national tour, the show delivers a fresh and technologically innovative world of pure imagination to add to your fantasy collection. There are endless updates to the story and you are whimsically projected into the world of Charlie’s competition that are now in the form of game boy addicts, hip-hop youtube sensations, ballerina wannabes, and greedy sausage gobblers. As in the movies, there’s hope for all in Act I, but darker times lie ahead for all the ravenous rascals,

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When attending any production focused primarily for kids, you run the risk of only enjoying your evening by watching their enthusiastic expressions. Thankfully, the writers chose to include endless jokes that will tickle adults’ funny bones as they aim high above the children’s head.

Everyone will be too busy being mesmerized and amazed by the assault to their visual senses by the excellent costuming, sets, choreography, and screen projections that will take them into the magical factory.

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This production definitely filled with Broadway-caliber performances, stands out because of the sincere innocence of both Charlie and his grandfather who give superb portrayals. The national tour double casts the part of Charlie, and the evening I attended, Ryan Umbarila gave one of the most incredible performances I have ever seen from a child actor.

Based on everyone’s professionalism, I’m sure both young actors easily encompass the purity and excitement needed for the title character. I feel confident the other child actor possesses equal talent and delivery to be cast on this tour.

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However, just when you think you’ve seen it all, wait until those Oompa Loompas show up. Needless to say, you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face, and probably, like me, a tear in the corner of your eye.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” provides a heapin’ helpin’ of family entertainment and continues through Jan. 26 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. American Theatre Guild locally hosts the event and covers ticketing. Tickets may be purchased through the American Theatre Guild website.

Tags: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” review, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, American Theatre Guild, Broadway Across America, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment


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