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Willy Wonka Makes His Broadway Debut

The Broadway Collection

Everyone remembers the first time they experienced the story of Charlie Bucket and his golden ticket. Maybe you know Willy Wonka from Gene Wilder’s iconic performance in 1971, or you might know him as Johnny Depp from the 2005 film. Others might be familiar with the original Roald Dahl book, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide in 55 languages. Whether you remember your parents reading you the story before bedtime, or your family singing along to “The Candy Man” on the television, somehow or other, you know the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and you remember the first time you heard it.

This spring, it’s time for a new generation of kids to find their golden tickets, because Charlie is finally making its Broadway debut. For many young audience members, this might be their first time experiencing any incarnation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For parents looking to introduce their kids to Charlie, this production is the perfect blend of the familiar and the unexpected. Audience members will get to hear the songs they love, like “I’ve Got A Golden Ticket” and “Pure Imagination,” as well as brand new music from the team behind Hairspray.

If you’re wondering how anyone could live up to the brilliant performance by Gene Wilder, look no further than two-time Tony Award®-winner Christian Borle. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, the actor talked about what it’s like to try and fill such big shoes: “I still carry [Wilder’s] performance and his persona as a gentle giant in my subconscious,” he said. Still, he recognizes that he doesn’t just want to reproduce Wilder’s performance on stage, saying, “To make this endeavor worth doing, we have to do something new with it.”

This balance between nostalgia and innovation is something the creators have kept in mind. While this production will contain many elements of the story that you know and love, you’ve never seen Charlie quite like this. The production has transformed the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre into an immersive experience. When you approach the theatre, you’ll see pipes pumping chocolate, and you’ll hear the clanking of a bustling confectionery factory. They’ve even installed a pint-sized “Oompa-Loompas Only” entrance. Click here to see Playbill's photo coverage of the renovations. 

This version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is more alive than any book or movie, because the production is happening right in front of you. Audience members step into the theatre, and they’re instantly transported to a world of pure imagination. Whether this is your first or fortieth time with Wonka, the experience at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Photographs by Mel Stuart, Quentin Blake, and Joan Marcus

Author: Jacob Jones