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‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ strikes gold on Broadway

Kidsday reporters Kiera Pagano, left, and Maggie Flaherty

Kidsday reporters Kiera Pagano, left, and Maggie Flaherty flank the actors who play the title role in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory": from left, Ryan Sell, Ryan Foust and Jake Ryan Flynn. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We were filled with pure imagination during an afternoon performance of the Broadway show “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The New Musical.” Ryan Foust, who played Charlie Bucket in the performance we saw, is a breakout star. There are also two other talented young actors who play the role of Charlie, Jake Ryan Flynn and Ryan Sell. This modern take on the film versions include references to Instagram, cellphones and iPads.

There were many great performances in the musical, especially the singing. The opening musical number was “The Candy Man,” sung by Willy Wonka (played by Christian Borle), and a favorite of ours. John Rubinstein, who stars as Grandpa Joe, and Emily Padgett, who stars as Mrs. Bucket, have solos that you won’t want to miss.

The musical is about a boy, Charlie Bucket, who lives in poverty with his mom and his four grandparents in a cramped apartment. Charlie’s grandfather, Grandpa Joe, worked in the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory many years ago. Grandpa Joe shares stories of his work at the chocolate factory.

Charlie is a dreamer and is obsessed with chocolate. Willy Wonka holds a contest and hides golden tickets in five Wonka Bars. The golden ticket winners get to go on a tour with Willy Wonka himself inside his famous chocolate factory.

Each time a person wins a golden ticket, he or she is featured on the news and becomes an instant celebrity. The first golden ticket is won by Augustus Gloop (F. Michael Haynie), a boy who loves sausage. The second ticket is won by Veruca Salt (Yesenia Ayala), a Russian girl who loves ballet. The third ticket is won by Violet Beauregarde (Trista Dollison), a pop star from California.

The fourth is won by Mike Teavee (Michael Wartella), a boy who only cares about electronics. Charlie’s family buys him a chocolate bar for his birthday, but he doesn’t win a golden ticket. Later, he finds a dollar on the floor at the candy shop and buys a second bar of chocolate. Charlie wins the final golden ticket and goes off with Grandpa Joe to tour the chocolate factory.

The Oompa Loompas appear in most of Act II and were hilarious. The actors wore all black and had small, white puppet bodies attached to their necks so they appeared to be actual little Oompa Loompas. One very cool scene was when Mike Teavee put himself into the television. It looked like a scene that took lots of hard work to coordinate! Another interesting detail in the show was that the settings in Willy Wonka’s factory were mostly empty. This symbolizes imagination and how it is such an important part of his life.

We also had the opportunity to meet all three young actors who portray Charlie and interview two of the actors, Jake Ryan Flynn and Ryan Sell, backstage in their dressing room after the show. They were both so fun to hang out with, and we had a blast talking to them. We asked how they balance school and performing in the show. They said they are home-schooled and have tutors. They have time to do their schoolwork before and after the performances.

Both actors really enjoyed getting to work with people like Christian Borle and Jackie Hoffman (Mrs. Teavee), John Rubinstein and Emily Padgett. Christian Borle mentors both young actors and helped them with comedic timing. Jake and Ryan watched both film versions of the musical and read the books to prepare for the role of Charlie. Ryan’s favorite song from the show is the closing number, “The View from Here,” and Jake’s favorite is “Auf Wiedersehen Augustus Gloop,” sung by Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas.

We highly recommend this musical for kids, and adults, of all ages. Most of us have seen the film versions with Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, but there is nothing like a live musical. It is playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and it is wonderful. This spectacular show deserves five smiles from us!

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