Reviewed by Mary Paige Rieffel
It was a dreary, rainy Friday the 13th as Clio Cast and Crew opened their production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, once the chilled audience shuffled into the small theater, they were greeted by a colorful lobby strewn with candies and filled with opening night excitement. All of it alluded to the whimsical and sugary treat we would witness once the curtain slid open. Most of us are familiar with either the novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, or even more likely the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder. This production, directed by Stevie Visser, is creative in maintaining the backbone of the story we know and love while splashing in new and interesting aspects, such as steampunk Celtic dubstep dance breaks. More on that later.
The cast is made up of an impressive showing of young talent. Things kick off with a marathon expositional monologue delivered strongly by Sarah Falardeau. We then meet four children, all with their own unique foulness. They are the very hungry lederhosen-clad Augustus Gloop played by Carter Kimes, the television obsessed Mike Teavee played by Alia Dunning, the small yet sassy Veruca Salt played by Jenna Wells, and Violet Beauregarde, gum’s number one fan played with extreme commitment and great timing by Zoe Simmerman. Next we meet the Bucket family led by the innocent and charming Charlie played by Austin Harrington. Golden tickets in hand, they eagerly line up to tour the factory of the legendary confectioner, Willy Wonka. Dawn Sabourin brings appropriate kookiness to this iconic character with a flair of anxious, well timed comedy.
All the while the action between scenes is being broken up with choreography brought to the stage by the large troupe of Oompa Loompas. This ensemble afforded the opportunity for as many as 30 school aged kiddos to polish their stage presence and dance skills even as it added an interesting element to this stage version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was originally without any musical components. These dance breaks (choreographer Terry Holden) also provided an opportunity for costuming and lighting to make a strong showing (Adam Laquinta and Visser).
It did feel as though the show had yet to find its pacing and timing through some stretches of action, but it no doubt will find its legs as the young cast becomes accustomed to the energy of a lively audience. Friday’s audience even cheered as Charlie declared that he had found his golden ticket, engendering a rush of excitement at being in the midst of strangers celebrating the victory of a fictional boy.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a delightful little show that I highly recommend for families with school-aged children. It continues at Clio Cast & Crew’s Theatre 57, 2220 W Vienna Rd, Clio on April 14, 20 & 21 at 7:30 pm and April 15 & 22 at 2:30 pm. For tickets and more information contact the box office at 810-687-2588 or online at www.cliocastandcrew.com/buy-tickets