CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Second Bite of the Wonka Bar: Reimagining ‘Charlie’ for Broadway

The New York Times: Willy Wonka has always known the importance of a good edit.

“You see,” he said in 1964, unsuccessfully cautioning Violet Beauregarde against sampling his magical chewing gum, “I haven’t got it quite right yet.”

By 1971, it was his own idiosyncratic phraseology he was revising. “Strike that,” he said after one head-scratching formulation. “Reverse it.”

Now, the quirky chocolatier is himself being reimagined — this time for Broadway.

10 comments:

Galen shila said...

I am so very excited about this adaption. In a world where franchises rule the entertainment industry and remakes are flooding the market with forced nostalgia this seems to be the only remake that i am genuinely excited about. Perhaps the re-imagining and changes bring new life to the show? A story such as this is perfectly suited for the stage. It seems from the article that the experience of the show team will really pay off. Something interesting is that the show is only funded by Warner bros and no investors. This is interesting because it puts a lot of stress on the show doing well. If it is a flop it will be a big hit for Warner Bros and would probably discourage further adaptations. As the article states they have plans for bettlejuice which i am even more excited about. So hopefully this dose well. I cannot wait to see how it goes on.

Rebecca Meckler said...

I’m surprised that they decided to change the storyline of the children in the play to make it darker. Roald Dahl already has dark elements, especially in Witches, I tend to think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a family story and I am really surprised that the decision was made to make the play darker. It’s hard to tell without seeing the musical if having Violet and Veruca dying, would change the feeling of the story. In the book and previous movies, I always felt as if bratty children got what they deserved, but I’m not that they deserved to die. I, however, am not entirely surprised to hear they they updated the time period to set it in modern day. This seems to be a common trend. I wonder if people are starting to think that younger generations have a harder time relating to events in a pre-digital age. However, I think that kids can relate to children of different time periods, especially when in involves something that every kid dreams of, a giant chocolate factory. Nevertheless, I would love to see how these changes affect the musical especially regarding the tone and feel of the story.

Simone Schneeberg said...

I'm both excited and skeptical of the changes made to this show. One the things I've never really liked about the two movies was how inhuman Wonka himself appeared. Gene Wilder's Wonka was detached from reality and from emotion, while Johnny Depp's characterization seemed almost alien entirely. As much as I loved the story and the fantastical world it created, this characterization always made it hard to completely embrace the story, there was always push back from the lack of connection to this character. I'm really glad that they added more humanity and more soul to Borle's Wonka. They added more oddity and more darkness that might add come of this weird disconnection, but also will add to the fantastical world of the Chocolate Factory. The humanization of willy Wonka hopefully will bridge any additional disconnection and pull the audience further in to the story. I really want to see it and see how these changes actually play out.

Evan Schild said...

I am so excited to see this version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have seen many videos and pictures from the London venison and it is very interesting. Sam Mendes the former director decided to make the show very dark. I like how dark Sam gets with his work. I have heard that the London production was not very good but it was financially successful. The changes they have made make a lot of sense. They decided to cast the children as adults instead of children. They said they did this so they can make it darker. I wonder how it will go over. Also I think they have added more music from the movie and less new original music. Nothing can beat the original music. Another big change is the set. I recently saw production photos and the set is very different than the London version. They both have the same dirty and girt feel but I think the set for Broadway was shrunk down compared to London. I cannot wait to see this show.

Mark Ivachtchenko said...

A theatrical adaption for Charlie and Chocolate Factory sounds very very cool but also kind of a nightmare for technical designers and fabricators. I can't even imagine the drastic contrast in set design, wild costumes, lighting, etc. as the story progresses. As stated, The design is spare — dominated by vivid colors." They're undoubtedly ready to put in a lot of time into this project given the type of team they're hiring which filled with very well known prestigious designers. A lot of the changes seem logical, especially making it more American, and don't seem too drastic to the original story line. Granted, creating a widow of Charlie's mother is a big change, I think it's a noble step to make the story line darker to reinforce semiotics explored in the factory. If the London production wasn't as successful as I've seen, I think they're really going to have to put a lot of work in terms of stronger character arcs, putting across the ideas they wish to introduce, and to make the story unique from the one we've seen before but keep it believable. Excited to see the results.

Marisa Rinchiuso said...

I'm very skeptical about the turnout or this show. It seems that it has just been redone to death. I think it's great to explore a new stage adaptation of a classic, but it's much like the Wizard of Oz, it's hard to redo it in a unique way while maintaining the original plot. I am confused as to why producers would move the show to NYC after getting mixed reviews in the UK. Particularly in this year's season, if you don't bring in a killer Broadway show, it'll be hard collecting Tony's which will lead to a short lived run. I also found it fascinating that the show's budget is not public because it is not a publicly traded stock. I'm sure the large, private investors just want to get it open and make some money back. I'm sure they'll be some appeal from families and the chance to see Broadway favorite, Christian Borle. Unfortunately, I don't know many people who will want to go see a remake of a sort-of classic movie at the price of typical tickets. It'll be interesting to see how it turns out at the Tony's.

Tahirah K. Agbamuche said...

The opening of this article made me smile - the importance of a good edit. This is so important to us as theatre artists. I am so, so, so excited for this reboot. I grew up with “Charlie” so this will be extremely nostalgic for me as well as others I am sure. I know it will be for my family. I think we all deserve a second chance, sometimes you need a run to identify the mistakes that hindered you from being successful. Many times, it is too late at that point and I am happy for the company that they are getting a rare second chance. They seem to be intending to, but I hope they learn from the things that did not work the last time around and tweak them now. I am honestly really excited, I hope we will get to see it here in Pittsburgh. That would be so exciting!

Taylor Steck said...

Despite the fact that I've always had a personal hatred for Willy Wonka, the production of it being brought to Broadway during this whole process has always intrigued me, like how people slow down to look at a car crash on the side of the road. With the debate of the child characters in the show being played by actual children or adults instead, I'm glad that they are choosing to go with adults in the end. I think this makes more sense in conjunction with the sort of darker re-branding that this production seems to be going for, especially since Wonka has been stamped as a simple children's story despite the fact that there are actually more interesting and darker undertones that have been pushed to the wayside to be marketable as a family affair. I'd be interested to know more about the actual transferring of this show from London to New York, especially since so much of it has bee changed to the point of not even calling it a transfer anymore. This fact makes me agree with Marissa and also wonder why they'd even bother to bring Wonka to America when it got such mixed reviews in London. At least it isnt Groundhog Day the Musical I guess.

Alex Talbot said...

I'm really excited to see this, and although this isn't the first adaptation of the production, based off of photos and reviews, and considering the cast, it seems like it will be good. I do agree with Taylor a bit in terms of the adaptation--the original book had major dark undertones that are often swept aside to market more to kids, and I wish those were kept. That said, I think the show will do well, since that seems to be what Broadway likes nowadays--large colorful happy musicals (see: Spongebob). To be honest, considering the success of Matilda and Willy Wonka, I'm quite surprised that Broadway hasn't picked up more Roald Dahl works. A lot of them are quite fantastically written stories that would translate well into theatre and musical form, and while many are quite dark, I think that level of depth would suit Broadway, especially since it is a little too happy and fun for my tastes right now.

Megan Jones said...

I'm very curious to see how this production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is received by the public. People are very protective of things from their childhood, and this story is no exception. I remember how disappointed my mom was with the remake of the movie that came out recently, as she grew up watching the original film. The darker tone of the stage production may drive away some audiences, especially younger children. Having children die onstage is going to be controversial, even if those children are played by adults. It also means that Willy Wonka himself is a straight up murderer, not just a man with a factory where things go wrong. I'd still be interested in seeing the show but I don't know if I'll connect to it as well as I did to the original movie. It is cool to see that Roald Dahl is being embraced by the theatre community and he has a lot more books that are significantly darker than this story.

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