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'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' at the Paramount: sweet, silly and worth seeing

Noah Weisberg as Willy Wonka, and the rest of the cast of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," on stage at Seattle's Paramount Theatre.

Joan Marcus photo


How'd they do that?

It wasn't until the curtain call that I finally figured out how they brought the singing, dancing Oompa Loompas to life on stage. Suffice to say, those actors had to be strong and flexible.

That was only part of the magic in the national touring version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," on stage through Aug. 11 at Seattle's Paramount Theatre.

Our daughter, 11, who is working on a production of "Mary Poppins" with StageStruck Seattle right now, made an immediate comparison: "They're both about magical people in an ordinary world."

We were surprised to hear her concede at the end, "I'm usually a more modern person, but I still like the first movie best."

That would be the 1971 Gene Wilder "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" that she's seen multiple times. Hard to beat, indeed. (In the name of research, our family recently watched the 2005 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version. No thanks.)

Despite where our loyalties may lie, we all thoroughly enjoyed the stage version.

I recommend it to your family, regardless of whether you are obsessed with the 1964 Roald Dahl book, either of the movie versions or none of the above. Lots of families and kids were in attendance at opening night at the Paramount, including a dressed-up girl wearing a "I'm the Golden Ticket" sign.

The Golden Ticket-holding "kids" in the show are updated, with Veruca Salt as a Russian ballerina, Violet Beauregard as a gum-chewing social-media star her doting father refers to as the "Queen of Pop," and Mike Teavee portrayed as a lazy gamer who hacked his way to a ticket. Augustus Gloop is still a portly Bavarian boy.

Each character (and accompanying parent) is introduced with a lively song-and-dance number. Between the sometimes-heavy faux accents and overpowering audio, I missed a few of the jokes, but I heard enough of Mrs. Teavee's lines about putting her son in restraints and medicating both herself and her child that I was both cringing and applauding at the end of that song.

And, yes, they all meet the fates that you are expecting. Good, optimism and imagination prevail.

I was disappointed to see so many patrons bolt for the door moments after Charlie and Willy Wonka had their final embrace. People! Your car can wait, and so can the traffic. Stay another five minutes and applaud the cast, and teach your kids to do the same (although most of the bolters didn't appear to be with children.) And as a longtime rehearsal pianist and veteran of the orchestra pit, I live for the moment when the musicians get their due.

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" runs through Aug. 11 (except Monday, Aug. 5) at the Paramount Theatre. The theater reminds patrons that security measures have been tightened, affecting what you should bring. (Think college or NFL football game.) Details here.

And very importantly, here's how to score a BOGO discount on tickets if you choose the right day and use the right code. (It's all in here.)


Henry Boshart as Charlie Bucket. He alternates the role with Collin Jeffery and Rueby Wood.  (Joan Marcus photo)


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