Undertaking Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has so many dynamics when you are trying to bring it to the theatre, young kids, endless props and bizarre settings. Trying to pull it off can take some of that Willy Wonka magic. Nancy Dee Horak pulled off that trick this weekend with her version of the famous movie at the Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about the hopes and dreams of a young boy named Charlie, played Jance Enslin. Charlie is wide eyed and just happy to be there as opposed to the other four very spoiled, misbehaving children. Jance had the soft-spoken and humble characteristics of Charlie down perfectly and he and Justin Hasse, Grandpa Joe, made for a fabulous team that managed to make it to the end of the tour to find out what Willy Wonka had in store for them.
If you were a fan of the original movie the performance of Jolie Vanier would have taken your breath away. Jolie looked as if she stepped right out of the original film version as she had the selfishness, mannerisms, facial expressions and voice that were pure Veruca Salt. Jolie really captivated the audience with her solo, putting on the ultimate Veruca tantrum, demanding that her daddy buy her a golden goose.
All of the characters were a joy to watch and each one was able to bring to life what they brought to the big screen. Jackie Rutan with her incessant gum-chewing and accent that was all Violet Beuregarde, Sergio Mendoza and his nonstop worrying about what was to eat pulling off Augustus Glump and Evan Hannemann as they annoying Mike Teavee, riling up Willy Wonka at every turn.
We can’t forget about Willy Wonka himself, Jeff Lucas. Trying to fill the shoes of Gene Wilder is quite a task, but Jeff was up to it. His quick wittedness and interaction with all of the children was spot on. He really was Willy Wonka.
While sticking mainly to the original movie, Nancy certainly took her creative liberties and they all paid off as her tweaks to the production only added to the laughs. The most entertaining addition to the play was the addition of a narrator. Aubrey Frail filled that roll and along with the Ooompa Loompas, garnered the most laughs on the evening. The narrator dressed in an off the wall outfit to fit perfectly in the Willy Wonka world we were in, had some of the best lines of the night and needed no words to entertain the audience as she introduced all the ticket winners. Her gestures and facial expressions as each golden ticket winner introduced themselves let you know what disdain she had for each one.
Nancy also added the “Wonka Divas” to keep the audience entertained during set changes. The four talented singers belted out hilarious song after hilarious song, taking shots at each of the naught children. The set changes came often as you went from the bedroom of Charlie's house, to the factory and every part of it. They even had the edible tea cup, such detail was appreciated.
Finally you have to give a lot of credit to Nancy and her Ooompa Loompas, a group of very young children that ranged all the way down to four years in age. You could not help but wait to see what the Ooompa Loompas were up to next, from songs, working in the factory and the best scene when one Ooompa Loompa was paddling faster and faster in the Willy Wonka boat, they did not miss a beat.
Taking in such a well done performance, you realize that while the movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory left that long lasting impression that something unique and memorable always does, the stage version left me with just as many fantastic memories, maybe even a few more.
For more information on Nancy and D.E.E. Studio Productions, visit: http://www.deestudioproductions.com/