Charlie Moves From London to Broadway, With a Few Changes
Last Friday, Broadway Inbound was treated to an exclusive preview of the soon-to-debut musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Invited guests arrived at the Samsung 837 modern art gallery, where a 360-degree selfie booth, a colorful candy buffet, and a virtual reality peak into the world of sweets awaited—an exciting appetizer for those who arrived hungry for a peek into the factory’s magical chocolate gates.
Charlie, London’s hit musical sensation, is now making its transfer to Broadway, or according to director Jack O’Brien, “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is up and running in the most delicious way!”
That’s partially due to the casting of a man who will take on the role of a master-chocolatier, beloved worldwide, the one and only Willy Wonka—Broadway fave Christian Borle. Known to TV viewers for his starring role on SMASH and to Broadway audiences for musicals including Something Rotten! and this season’s Falsettos, Borle’s next role will be to take on the iconic candy connoisseur.
Sporting a blue velvet blazer and playful shoes, he took to the stage at Samsung 837 to sing the iconic words Americans know by heart, “Come with me, and we’ll be, in a world of pure imagination.” Those lyrics, made famous by the late, great Gene Wilder, are very familiar to multiple generations of kids who grew up on the childlike playfulness and inspiration of the 1971 Munich-filmed movie musical.
This new musical version of the story pays respect to the classic movie. Driving the message home, O’Brien said, “Gene Wilder had the intellectual combination of wit, naughtiness, intrigue, and invention, he was a mystery you couldn’t wait to figure out. From my perspective, the only man living today with that chemistry is Christian Borle.”
Between sneak-peek performances by Borle of new and classic songs in the musical, the creative team expounded on the concept of the production. O’Brien, along with co-lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, outlined various differences between the U.S. and U.K. stage versions.
Broadway audiences can expect a movie-inspired production. That’s a slight change from the West End version, which played up more of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel, familiar with London audiences. Dahl, who also authored the original Matilda, wrote Charlie for children—and as a way for adults to speak to children. According to O’Brien, that is why it has enjoyed success across multiple media and generations.
Another change from London is Willy Wonka’s first appearance. The West End version had audiences waiting a while to see Willy appear onstage. On Broadway, Willy starts the show by welcoming children and adults to enter his fantasy candy empire.
The Broadway version will feature more classic songs from the film that were left out of the London production, as well as new songs by Shaiman and Wittman. Audiences can expect yodeling from Augustus Gloop as he enjoys a mid-breakfast snack of 50 chocolate bars, plus a number called “Strike That, Reverse It” highlighting Wonka’s constant mental frenzy.
The goal of the entire creative team is to remain true to the story while implementing a unique Broadway design process, incorporating choreography by Joshua Bergasse as well as the magic of puppeteer Basil Twist, who will bring the Oompa Loompas to life. It was clear that the team is eager to see how American audiences react to the show.
Group leaders and FIT travelers are encouraged to book tickets in advance to see the classic story play out on the Broadway stage for the first time. Anyone who decides to see Charlie is certainly in for a sweet treat.