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Ryan Umbarila as Charlie Bucket in the touring production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Sweet vocals of youngest performer is true Golden Ticket of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

If there’s anything better than a Gobstopper, it’s the performances in the newest adaptation of the family favorite Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. For the Broadway tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it’s no less filled with lip-smacking fun, keen observations about children, fantastical sets and a sweet child-grandfather relationship.

For someone who’s tastes run closer to Phantom, Les Mis and other well-known Broadway productions, it was just plain good to laugh. With Broadway, you see, you don’t get to do that very often. But Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is THE golden ticket if you want to enjoy yourself and feel the liberty to laugh along side your kids.

The newest origination is based upon the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. It was adapted to film, first in the 1971 Gene Wilder classic and again in a much creepier Tim Burton attempt from 2005 starring Johnny Depp. In the modern musical it’s updated with contemporary references and problems such as over-the-top, bratty children fit for a new Century of poor parenting. Here, too, they are unlikeable—spoiled rotten, electronic game obsessed, bubble-gum addicted, and glutenous.

Charlie Bucket is from a single parent home, and along with his mother, cares for four bed-ridden grandparents. Charlie dreams of candy and adventure. Willie Wonka, a mysterious candy maker, has decided that he will allow five people to tour the local chocolate factory but they’ll be chosen through random tickets placed within five candy bars.

Kansas City friends, we're super excited to be spending next week with you! Join us at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts beginning this Tuesday, January 21st. #kansascity

Posted by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Saturday, January 18, 2020

Charlie’s chances don’t look so great. With his father deceased, his mom works several jobs. The only thing he wants each year for his birthday is just one candy bar. His birthday gift does not bare the coveted ticket but he ends up with another bar that, amazingly, contains a ticket for the chocolate factory tour.

Unbeknownst to Charlie and the other contestants, the true motive of Willie Wonka is to find an heir to his candy making secrets.

The first act is on the kind side. You find yourself drawn into Charlie’s world, rooting for this kid from an impoverished home to find his dreams. You are also rooting for him to receive a candy bar, much less the golden tour ticket. The second act shows the four fellow tour companions being terminated by eerie methods. In one scene Veruca Sal, the spoiled Russian ballerina, wanders into the nut sorting room staffed with the squirrels. Squirrels are known for cracking nuts. Well, you get the picture.

The Oompa Loompas, the factory workers bring the biggest laughs to the production. The audience roared with approval at their arrival and familiar dead-pan delivery of comical situations. The Oompa Loompas, with their tiny bodies and short arms, sing and dance evoking great laughs. Basil Twist created the stage version of the creatures and he doesn’t disappoint. Joshua Bergasse added the choreography which deserves praise.


Ryan Umbarila gave the evening’s shining performance as Charlie Bucket sharing the role with Brody Bett. His character is so contrary to the other four children you cannot help but love him. He seemed purer than pure and his character was reinforced with good, sweet vocals which makes you wonder how they can emanate from such a young actor.  Steve Mccoy as Grandpa Joe was hilarious as the man who recounts his participation in heroic adventures from several centuries. He couldn’t get out of bed for 40 years until a true adventure is presented in touring the chocolate factory with Charlie. Cody Garcia, as Willy Wonka, was the other brightly shining star and was exceptional in layering Wonka’s quirky behaviors in the second act as ultimately his heart is also drawn to the innocent wonder of Charlie.

The set is made for imagination with bright and colorful design for costumes.   Video technology and special effects allow you to enjoy the magical world of Willie Wonka.

It was such a delight to hear “Pure Imagination,” “The Candy Man,” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” that we are all familiar.

It is not very often that you leave the theater with people humming a song from the musical. But you did at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was just that magical and sweet.

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is at the Kauffman Center, 1601 Broadway Blvd, Kansas City, MO through January 26, 2020. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is recommended for ages 6 and older. Click HERE for ticket info.

–Anita Widaman | Metro Voice