Windsor Light Music Theatre is gearing up to premiere their latest production, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Based on Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book, the musical promises to take audiences on a fantastical journey filled with whimsy and wonder. With a talented cast and creative team, the production is sure to capture the hearts and imaginations of both children and adults alike. Excitement is building for the upcoming premiere, and tickets are already selling fast. Fans of the book and movie are eagerly anticipating the chance to see their favorite characters come to life on stage. The production promises to be a fun-filled, family-friendly event that will leave audiences of all ages feeling uplifted and entertained. The musical opens tonight, May 5, at the Chrysler Theatre and runs for two weekends until May 14.
To delve further into the creative process behind this production, we spoke with Matthew Dumouchel, the show’s director. Dumouchel, who has a wealth of experience directing local productions, was thrilled to be a part of this project.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a timeless story that has remained a favorite for many generations,” he said. “I wanted to make sure our production captures that whimsical charm that has made this story so beloved.”
One of the most crucial aspects of bringing Dahl’s fantastical world to life on stage is the production design. Dumouchel explained how the team has created a unique world set through the perspective of Charlie Bucket.
“We wanted to show the stark contrast between Charlie’s humble beginnings and the wonders of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,” he said. “The use of color is an essential component in creating two different worlds, pre and post Chocolate Factory. We also worked with Broadway Media as part of the pilot project in creating an exciting world through projections that will add a layer of animation to truly engulf our audiences into Charlie’s world.”
But it’s not just the visual spectacle that will be captivating audiences; the music and choreography promise to be equally impressive. “This score has a perfect blend of new and contemporary songs mixed with familiar classics, such as The Candy Man and Pure Imagination,” said Dumouchel. “Every number is choreographed to help enhance the storytelling of our characters and help them along their chocolatey adventure.”
The casting for this production reflects the diverse and inclusive values of modern theatre. Dumouchel explained that Windsor Light is passionate about welcoming new and familiar faces to their stage. “We sought out a talented group of individuals to tell this story from Charlie’s perspective,” he said. “My vision brings adults into the roles of the 4 Golden Ticket Winners alongside our hero, Charlie. A strategy that was successful on Broadway and in the National Tour allows these characters to have a rounded dimension to them and makes it even more delicious to see their eventual demise.”
Dumouchel also shared that their most exciting casting decision was finding Evangeline Scott to play their Charlie. “When casting Charlie, the only requirements we had were an actor aged 8-12, who was able to evoke compassion from an audience and brought humility to their portrayal,” he said. “Evangeline does just that, and through special permission from our rights holders, the decision to have a female Charlie was possible. Charlie is a character that transcends genders, the character embodies the good nature we all have in us, and Evangeline fits that bill.”
Bringing Dahl’s beloved characters to life on stage came with its own set of challenges, Dumouchel revealed. “This is a story that is loved by so many, so finding a way to modernize it while keeping the original concept art in mind was our top priority,” he said. “The use of many special effects, exciting costumes, projections, and a few other surprises, though adding a level of complexity to the staging, will be the cherry on top of a delectable production.”
With early access to the rights, the theatre company will be the first amateur theatre group in North America to present this new musical.
The decision to stage Charlie and the Chocolate Factory despite recent controversies surrounding Dahl’s works, never came into play. “We received permission to mount our production 12-18 months in advance, and the decision was made based on the novel’s messages being applicable to today’s audiences,” said Dumouchel. “We love the novel and wish every child the opportunity to dive into the world of Dahl.”
“Our production picks up on a new stylistic approach told through colour, humour and captivating new music,” said Dumouchel. “Our ability to take what we have done before and adapt it to a more contemporary audience allows us to use new technologies that weren’t possible 13 years ago.”
One of the main challenges in adapting Dahl’s work for the stage is balancing its darker elements with lighthearted moments. “The casting choices help in finding the lighthearted moments in the thick of darker themes,” explained Dumouchel. “The writing of the script allows us to add subtle winks and nudges to the audience to not take those darker themes too seriously.”
The special effects and illusions used in the production are another crucial element that audiences are eagerly anticipating. “Every time you think we pulled out all the stops, we throw a new element at the audience that one ups itself,” said Dumouchel.
Despite the fantastical elements of the story, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also has underlying themes of morality and punishment. “Good children are dutiful and respectful, whereas bad children are the opposite,” said Dumouchel. “Each of the characters is punished or rewarded in accordance with their personality through comedic storytelling and dances live on stage.”
The choreography is also a key element of the production, with choreographer Cindy Pattison-Rivard helping the cast to explore their characters through movement. “Her ability to tell a story through movement and formation has helped solicit emotional connection to each element of the production,” said Dumouchel.
The set design for the show is nothing short of spectacular, Dumouchel reveals: “Picture the production in two parts: Act One takes place in the Pre-Factory world. An emphasis on dark, neutral tones, gloomy moods and steampunk aesthetic tells us how Charlie feels in her day to day. The set is modular and picks up on how Charlie feels in the different spaces of her life. Act Two punches colour at the audience, more vibrant with every turn our cast takes. The seemingly gloomy Factory from the outside is completely flipped on its head as the golden ticket winners enter this fantastical world of chocolate covered confection. We wanted the audiences to be enticed by the bright pops of metallic shine, whimsical nuisances and cheery complexion of the set once we step inside Wonka’s world.”
The actors have faced a unique challenge in portraying the iconic characters from the beloved story. Dumouchel notes that, “There is always a heavy burden an actor faces when tackling iconic characters, whether they are fictional or not. Our Wonka, though much younger in real life, was challenged to mature his choices, while our golden ticket winners were faced with the opposite and had to embody 10 year olds. However, the commonality among them all was the ability to play with their characters and make them so much larger than life so they could help tell the story in a compelling manner. They have all stepped up to the challenge, finding character development and arcs that weren’t necessarily described in the novel.”
But can the musical’s humour and charm appeal to audiences of all ages? According to Dumouchel, “This is a story for the entire family. It resonates with audiences by reminding us that while life always throws curveballs our way, it’s how we handle those challenges that brings us all together. We encourage you, and the whole family, to come and explore the fascinating world of Willy Wonka and see all the mischief he bestows upon the unaware golden ticket winners.”
Limited tickets are available at the Chrsyler Theatre box office. Prices range from $35-50, plus fees. Visit https://www.windsorlight.com/charlie for more information.