A comic confection
- Jill Spitznass
- Portland Tribune - Features
Oregon Children's Theatre takes a trip to the chocolate factory
The Oregon Children's Theatre brings a delicious tale of candy-coated greed and chocolate-dipped justice to the stage when it presents 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.'
Baby boomers certainly are familiar with the story of Charlie Bucket, who after finding the fifth (and final) golden ticket in a worldwide contest, wins a tour of Willy Wonka's top-secret chocolate factory. Once inside, he and four other winners are wide-eyed witnesses to a world where chocolate rivers flow and flowers are made of candy. How the children behave themselves Ñ or not Ñ in an adventure filled with tasty temptations could change their lives forever.
Based on the children's book by Roald Dahl, the play features the bodaciously bratty Veruca Salt ('Daddy, I want that golden ticket, and I want it now!'), boob tube-obsessed Mike Teavee, gum-chewing loudmouth Violet Beauregarde and piggish mama's boy Augustus Gloop.
As the fate of the five characters unfolds among colorful sets and spectacular special effects, many juicy questions are answered: Will Charlie be rewarded for his good behavior? Are Everlasting Gobstoppers really everlasting? And most importantly: Will the bad kids get their just desserts?
Greg Tamblyn directs the children's theater cast, which includes Jay Randall Horenstein as the eccentric factory owner Willy Wonka and local seventh-grader Jameson Tabor as the morally upstanding Charlie Bucket.
Tamblyn, who also directed Jay Randall in another Dahl classic, 'James and the Giant Peach,' says young viewers can learn much from Charlie.
'Charlie wants the goodness in people to come out,' he says. 'When he sees Veruca and the others cheat to get into the contest, he uses his own way to show us and them that you can't always get what you want unless your heart's in the right place.'
And although Charlie lives with his parents and four grandparents in cramped, impoverished quarters, Tamblyn says the play also underscores the true wealth that the family possesses.
'We were rehearsing the scene with all the grandparents (the four share one bed), and I reminded the cast that these people may be economically depressed, but their soul and heart aren't,' Tamblyn says. 'There's more laughter and love in this house than there is in Mike Teavee or Veruca Salt's house. Unlike Charlie's family, these people can have anything but really don't have what matters.'
The colorful and quirky Oompa Loompas (made famous in the movie version of the tale) also have starring roles in this production, thanks to a rewrite by Tamblyn. The original script didn't include Wonka's pint-sized factory workers, who function as a kind of Greek chorus in the tale, summarizing each dramatic episode with a song-and-dance number set to a moral beat.
Tamblyn says that it's this tidy, ethical sense of closure that resonates with the audience:
'The same thing that makes us want the bad kids to get their comeuppance is the same thing that makes us want Charlie, like all people who have a good heart and work hard, to get what he deserves: a chance.'