Monday, Feb. 27, 2012

First Stage Brings the Chocolate

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLTE FACTORY opens this weekend

By Russ Bickerstaff
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It’s all those little details that make for a memorable production. I remember a staging of The Diary of Anne Frank in the basement of the Brumder Mansion that had the family actually eating a meal of real food. Seeing actual sustenance onstage added something potent to the experience of the show.

First Stage is opening its production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this coming weekend. Marketing and PR manager Jennifer Hubartt says that the smell of baking chocolate chip cookies will be piped into the theatre for the show. The smell of chocolate for the chocolate factory. Should add more than a little that isn’t normally there in most live theatre . . . that scent of chocolate.

That’s just one more additional detail on a show that will likely have all the hallmarks of top-notch children’s theatre. Bo Johnson has the distinction of playing Willy Wonka here. His take on the character should be interesting. His stage presence is well outside the weird recluse Johnny Depp played him as in the recent big screen adaptation . . . and equally removed from the vaguely surreal moodiness of Gene Wilder in the big screen original. Johnson has a range that goes from wacky surface-level comedy to something much deeper. There’s no question he’ll strike an interesting balance here. With an adult cast also including Mary MacDonald Kerr and Robert J. Sepncer, this Chalie should have not trouble living up to First Stage’s standards.

First Stage’s production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory runs March 2nd – April 1st at the Todd Wehr Theater in the Marcus Center. For ticket reservations, call 414-273-7206 or visit First Stage online.

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