Never a Dahl moment
By Narelle Wood
The title of both the production company, Seemingly Evil Productions, and the show, Willy Wanka, was incredibly enticing; it seemed like an easy comedy combination of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and spoof comedy.
The storyline of Willy Wanka follows closely that of the original. Poor boy wins tour of mystical chocolate factory with several other bratty children, meanwhile Wanka is being undermined by one of his employees, Slugsworth. The show only really deviates in the breviety of each scene and Wanka is a child-hating imbecile. For the most part the comedy comes from over-exaggerating the creepiness that was much more subtle in the original. The Oompa Loompas are an oppressed race, working in slave-like conditions and are easily dispensable, Charlie’s mother is void of personality, Charlie himself is largely ignored due to his poverty and the four grandparents have an unusual relationship having spent more than 20 years together in bed.
The show is well cast. Amongst the standouts are the overly-enthusaistic Charlie (Sam Garlepp), eerie Grandpa Joe (Lachie McKenzie) and Willy Wanka (Will Reinehr). Several actors play multiple characters and these are exceptionally well done, especially those created by Clare Rankine and John Liacopoulos, who not only change between several characters super quickly, but also momentarily change costumes and accents as well. Vocal performances during the musical moments, such as those from Melissa Tracina and Alice Tovey, were also very strong and I would have been keen to hear more musical numbers throughout the show.
It was opening night so there were a few small glitches, however the flying Oompa Loompa received one of the biggest laughs of the night. But that’s not to say the planned comedy wasn’t funny because it mostly was. There were a few times that they went for shock-factor humour, which I’m personally not a fan of. The best bits were the scenes with the Oompa Loompas, the use of flashbacks and the reworking of some of the original songs. That said, I couldn’t help but think there was more that could have been made of all these scenes and the promising Wanka character, had the pace been a smidge snappier.
Willy Wanka is an entertaining parody of the original, but as its title indicates, is certainly not a reworking that would be suitable for children. It is definitely worth a look if you like irrevent humour and children’s stories that flirt with and sometimes succumb to the darker side of comedy.
Venue: Trades Hall, Cnr Lygon and Victoria Sts, Carlton
Season: Until April 3rd, Tue-Sat 7pm, Sun 6pm
Tickets: Full $23 Conc $17
Bookings: www.willywanka.com.au or at the door