Review: ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ delivers silly, imaginative fun to Eccles Theater

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Photo: National tour

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 17, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The Broadway touring production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” features one of the same songs that define the 1971 Gene Wilder and the 2005 Johnny Depp films retellings of the Roald Dahl 1964 fantasy novel.

“Pure Imagination”:

“Come with me and you’ll be
In a world of pure imagination….”

Pure imagination may be easier to find with a filmmaking budget of $3 million and $150 million respectively. But how deep into imagination can production designers and small troupe of actors and production designers imbue in a smaller budget fantasy musical that travels between cities in a semi?

You’d be surprised.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” runs through Sunday at the Eccles Theater, in downtown Salt Lake City. With matinees and evening shows, five more performances remain.

The fantasy musical is filled with imagination and visual delights, some of which will make you laugh out loud. And a few other effects fall short of mind blowing, but still show a lot of creativity. Which is what this production is about.

Cody Garcia, who plays the top-hatted candy man, stands 6 feet 4 inches, and is a tower of talent, capturing Wonka’s confident/contrary moods and quirky/dark humor. His performance — the singing, dancing and acting — is spot on.

It’s rare to watch an entire show without thinking evenly briefly about the actor’s life and career. For this reviewer, it happened with this show. Garcia fully disappeared into Wonka.

The child lead alternates between two young actors, and on opening night, Charlie Bucket was played by William Goldsman. He captured the characters empathetic nature and youthful enthusiasm, and his hope, despite growing up in poverty.

Charlie and the other child winners of a golden ticket, along with their parents or guardians, are treated to a Wonka factory tour, and the kids, played as extremes for comic effect, one-by-one fall victim to their own bad choices, much to Wonka’s bemusement.

All the actors to good job of capturing their characters’ extreme and/or subtle traits. And the kids in the audience get to see, at curtain call, that no characters were actually harmed by disappearing into a chocolate river, processed as a bad nut by giant squirrels, or shrunken to candy bar size in a broadcast transmission.

But other than the lead actors, the real stars of this show are the special effects choices, none of which are all that convincing, but several of which are hysterical.

The hard part of reviewing shows is not revealing the fun secrets. So we’ll just say the glass sky elevator is not worth the wait, but the audience laughed hard at anything involving Oompa Lumpas or bad children getting what they deserved.

Theater fans will enjoy the projected backgrounds, the mobile set pieces, and creative costumes. And there’s even a heartwarming and hopeful ending, with a message about the true value of imagination.

For more information about the theater and tickets, click here.

If anyone is curious about the actors in the cast, click here.

And oh, here are the final lines of “Pure Imagination”:

“There is no life I know
To compare with pure imagination
Living there, you’ll be free
If you truly wish to be”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here