Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ is the stage adaptation written by David Greig and based on the 1964 children’s novel by British author, Roald Harlis Dahl. In 2012, Dahl’s ‘nauseating fantasy’ book was in the top five novels read to children.

The musical score was by Marc Shaiman, with lyrics by Scott Wittman. Some of the songs are by Leslie.  

The Stray Cats Theatre Company, in partnership with Mandurah Performing Arts Centre Company, is presenting this two and a half hour much-loved children’s colourful spectacular classic in the main theatre of the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Ormsby Terrace in Mandurah.

There are only six performances of this wonderful family spectacle: starting at 7.30 pm on Thursday 6th May until the 2.00 pm matinée on Sunday 9th May.

The story behind the story (for adults to peruse). The story was inspired by one of Roald Dahl’s school holiday’s experience, a visit to Cadbury’s Birmingham chocolate factory. Cadbury often sent test packages to the schoolchildren in exchange for their opinions. Cadbury and Rowntree’s were England’s two largest chocolate makers and each tried to steal trade secrets by sending spies into the other’s factory.

In the book’s first published edition, Charlie was ‘a little black boy’ and the Oompa-Loompas were African pygmies paid in cocoa beans. Even 60 yrs. ago, there were American groups promoting ‘respect for the black citizens’, who demanded that the term ‘African’ was removed as it suggested the workers were slaves. Dahl willingly corrected this and made Charlie white. Since Dahl’s death, several other unpublished chapters and factory areas have been discovered, listing the horrid demise of some children. In October 2016, Warner Bros acquired the rights to the Willy Wonka character from the Roald Dahl Estate.

The Penguin’s 50th anniversary book cover was strangely and controversially aimed at the adult market. The cover showed a tarty young girl seated on her mother’s knee and wearing a doll-like expression; this was part of a photo shoot for a 2008 fashion article in a French magazine. Reviewers and commentators said the art conjured ‘Lolita’, ‘Valley of the Dolls’ and not surprisingly as “misleading,” “creepy,” “sexualised,” “grotesque,” and kind of paedophilic.

The book’s sequel, ‘Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator’, was published in 1972 but the third book in the series was never finished.

The Scene:                           An extremely poor house in a poverty-stricken area, on the outskirts of an English city.

The Set Designers:           Bronwyn White and Karen Francis            

The stunning main sets were Charlie’s house – a cluttered kitchen and grandparents’ bedroom.

The factory gates and the magical interior with dozens of edible lollies.

Set construction:              Mal Thompson, Peter Francis, Duncan Anderson and Tony Holding.

Fly mechanist:                   Nick Morant

Props:                                   Monique Kinnest, Billie Bridgman, and Karen Francis.

Lighting design:                Fast moving, colourful and intricate lighting from Clint Gerard and Karen Francis.

Spotlight followers:         Stephanie Wainwright and Eibhlis Newman. Superb. The aperture was well controlled and

the beams moved steadily and perfectly.

Projection:                          Alan White’s TV screens and the illusion of the Glass Elevator were jaw dropping. There will be many a child feeling themselves soaring into the sky with this illusion.

Soundscape:                      Dylan Conroy. Headset and microphone balancing thanks to Sarah Bridgman. Very well created sound effects, especially with the fizz carameliser machine and the glass elevator.

Stage management:       Teaghan Lowry and Karen Francis, assisted by Monique Kinnest. Dozens of cast and no crowding to leave the stage, Great organisation.

Back stage crew:              Rhiannon Francis, Kaz Defoy, Wanita Cooke, Billie Bridgman, Max Roberts and Billie Roberts moved major piece of furniture and props smoothly.

Production manager:     Kristie Corbishley

11-year-old Charlie Bucket (Luis Proctor – brilliant) is a caring polite boy who lives with his widowed mother (Asha Perry) and his four senile grandparents, 96 yrs. old Grandpa Joe (Azza Gee – great), Grandma Josephine (Shevonne Scudamore), Grandma Georgina (Joanna Wilson-Smale) and quiet and grumpy Grandpa George (Aidan Thomas) who have spent the last 40 years lying together in an extra-large, king size, brass bedstead. They all live in abject poverty in a small house outside of town. Charlie sleeps above the kitchen sink.

One day, Charlie’s Grandpa Joe tells Charlie about the celebrated and peculiar chocolatier, Willy Wonka (Scott Hansen – perfect) and all the wonderful sweets he made until the other chocolatiers sent in spies to steal his secret recipes, forcing Wonka for security reasons to close the factory to outsiders.

Charlie’s Mum sent him to buy a cabbage from a street trader, Mrs Green (Amy Honor Elliott) who heartlessly rips him of by selling a rotten, snail infested cabbage to him. On the way home Charlie discovers that a sweet new shop has opened selling Wonka products; however, Charlie does not know that it is Mr Willy Wonka himself who is running it. The next day, the newspaper announces that Wonka is re-opening the factory and has invited five lucky children to come on a tour if they find a Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar.

The first ticket is found by a greedy vastly oversized 9 yrs. old, Bavarian Augustus Gloop (Thomas Hennessy). Wearing his best lederhosen, Augustus goes with his mother, Mrs Gloop (Sky Kettle – fabulous singing) to claim his prize. The TV announcer (Kallum Herschell) has brought two dozen Beer Fest waitresses in costume to celebrate. The Wonka factory’s promotion team, led by Mr. Hofstadter ‘Hoffa’ (Lachlan McNeil) and Cherry (Ella Thompson) ensure a good day for all.

The next winner is a spoiled brat, Russian Veruca Salt (Emily Tamplin) who arrived for her award in her pink tutu accompanied by her exceptionally rich father (Alex White) and a ballet chorus from Swan Lake. Then there is a chewing gum addict who has chewed the same gum for ten years; she is a rude 10 yrs. old American, Violet Beauregarde (Tannah Pridmore) and her cool relative (Jioji Nawanawa). Finally, there is a teenage waster and television addict with attitude, Mike Teavee (Braeden Geuer) who tells his mother (Kristie Corbishley) ‘Just get the prize, don’t bother me and give me peace!’

That night when Charlie’s Mum has a loving vision of her dancing with her husband (Bailey Bridgman-Peters), she knows her luck will soon change. Next day, it is Charlie’s birthday but no one in the house has any money whatsoever to buy him his annual chocolate bar. So, when poor scrawny Charlie finds a dollar, he asks around if someone has dropped it, before, in desperation for food, buys a Wonka Bar and amazingly finds the fifth Golden Ticket. The ticket says he can bring a family member with him to the factory. His Mum is working and so Grandpa Joe agrees to go and support Charlie.

Will Charlie win a prize? Will he see the fantastic machines and the mischievous Oompa-Loompas who operate them?

The hardworking, dedicated dancers and chorus included:-

Abby Tamplin, Aleesha Triglia, Alex Davis, Alexandra Wall, Amelia Gaunt, Asha Pickering, Bethan Defoy, Braydee Audrain, Cathy Wainwright, Charmain Oliffe, Chelsea Hobson, Ester Prestage, Gemma Lever, India Blakiston, James Buckland, Jaxan Bower, Joel Hansen, Karen Jarvis, Keely Hockley, Kenzie Harrison, Lizzie Baker, Megan Cooke, Mel Coleman, Mitchell Vickers, Morgan Randall, Poppy Miller, Robert Kett, Royce Newall, Shay-Lee Wilson, Sienna Gardyne, Sommer Hester, Sydnee Gould, Tahnaya Minchin and Tammie Pursell. The Gum Chompin Divas were Anna Paschkewitz and Chantel Bell.

The director Karen Francis has presented more than a dozen, top rate major productions in conjunction with the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre Company, everyone a sell-out. There are very few tickets left for this production but grab one if you can. Karen is known in the theatre industry for her kindness in giving beginners a chance. Her productions always have magnificent costumes and sets, which helps to give the youngsters confidence and pride. So often children’s show performances need to have allowances made for them; children wander around lost, get out of step on a dance routine and give performances that even their grandmothers would flinch at – but NEVER with one of Karen’s shows. They are carefully rehearsed and despite casts of around 50, she will spend time with individuals, guiding them and treating them as special essential elements.

Musical director, Vanitha Hart (and third keys) has given us fabulous songs immaculately presented. From ‘The Candy Man’ to rousing choruses. Some numbers were soft and emotional and others, like that at the factory entrance gave full freedom to the brass and percussion in a rousing delivery, all with perfect instrumental balance.

The Chocolate Factory Orchestra included on Keys 1 – Michael Baker, 2 – Jon McIlwraith, Violin 1 – Amanda Curci, 2 – Rebekah Andrews, Cello – Amanda Reynolds, Reed 1- Talitha Dunn, 2- Esther Lee, 3 – Jazmin Ealden, 4 – Flynn Passamani, Trumpet – Harry Josland, Trombones – Jeremy Mazurek, Steven Bickley, Horn – Ingrid Waters, Guitar – William Christensen, Bass – Leah van der Muelen, Drums – Thomas Selim, Percussion – Steven Hartley and vocal backing by the delightful Pitt Singers – Chantel Bell, Emily Lambert, Bailey Bridgman-Peters, Rory Ellis.

The fine photography by Kristie Hennessy and Gemma Little was crisp and reflected the cheeky genre of the story. The clear and interesting Programme was the hard work of Kristie Hennessey.

Head choreographer Caitlin Wainwright and her assistant Rhiannon Francis had a dozen huge dance numbers with up to 60 performers to stage, but their interpretation of the scenes and the characters involved always gave depth to the dance routines. Despite having a selection of ages and body sizes, the troupe worked flawlessly as one. The sequences ranged from a delightful ballet scene to a ‘Westside Story’ style teenage stomp.

The costumes for a children’s production are so important. Costumières Linda Lowry, Kim Parker, Pat Francis and Karen Francis have put in hours of thought and dexterity. All the main characters were beautifully considered, from poor Charlie’s tatters to the sparkle of Wonka and his prize winners. The other costumes for the dance routines were magnificent. The nut sorting squirrels in the factory brought a gasp; with their huge tails, ears and claws – outstanding. The ballet then the Oompahs as they marched down the theatre aisles looked amazing. There were gang costumes, a marching band, the list is endless.

The makeup by Jodie Mars, assisted by Morgan Randall, Chelsea Hobson, Gemma Lever and Keely Hockley gave us beauty, old age and the orange Oompahs. Well done.

Director Karen has been involved in all aspects of the show and has come up with another huge success. Her dedication is amazing.

The acting of our young star, Luis from central Scotland with his cute accent, was special. It is rare to find such a young actor (11?) who has such fully advanced stage skills. His horrible Golden Ticket competitors – bless them -were great singers with superb comedic delivery. The adults all had beautiful, powerful voices. What a fantastic show.