The latest offering by Now Productions is an absolute winner and would have got my Golden Buzzer even without the GOT reference early in the first act.
This production based on the novel by Roald Dahl, with music composed by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman who also wrote for Hairspray, is nothing short of colourful. The sets, the costumes, the lights all add to the journey of wonder and amazement that the cast takes you on right from the opening scene.
Opening night we were graced with performances from the Gesundheit Cast. Now Productions share the love by having two casts with two principals for each character so everyone has the opportunity to grow and shine. When not performing as a principal, these performers fill the ensemble giving a well rounded look to the stage.
I cannot possibly name each character as there were so many wonderful performances. Just a little snapshot perhaps…
Gesundheit’s Willy Wonka was performed by James Hester who was channelling Johnny Depp. His characteristics, facial expressions and enunciation throughout were so Johnny it was spooky. Charlie Bucket on Opening night was performed by Phoebe Clark who has the most amazing set of lungs I have heard from a 12 year old in a very long time. The diction was clear and loud enough that everyone could hear. Grandpa Joe performed by Aidan Good has such comic timing it was a dream to watch. His childlike excitement to experience life instead of sitting around waiting for the inevitable was infectious. All other principal characters were a joy to watch and in many cases hate… but the character I loved to hate probably the most was Veruca Salt, performed exceptionally well by Maisy Jo Russell. You could very well have been forgiven for wanting to climb up on the stage and give the precocious little brat a good shake and probably, even more so, Joe Russell who played the character of Mr Salt, her father. One would only hope this is not how they behave around the dinner table.
This show has so much colour and effect in the stage sets and lighting it was mesmerizing to watch the changes happen all around. Costumes too were colourful, exciting, practical and well thought out – well done to the teams involved.
The only very small negative I would comment on was the mix of sound. The band is in the pit creating a sound wall between the performers and the audience. Add to this the foldback was often very high which meant the cast were having to yell their lines which then takes away from their pronunciation. I have no doubt this would be remedied by the second performance when nerves settle down and everyone gets into their groove.
Well done Now Productions and I look forward to your offerings in 2023.
- Gobstopper cast review: David Evans
The role of Willy Wonka for this play requires a performer that has the stamina to be on stage for a large portion of the play plus be able to project, be understood and be able to do a reasonable job of singing. It was obvious from the opening that Kane Mobbs was perfect for this role. Not only did he have all those attributes, he was also very quick to ad-lib when at the start of Act Two he recovered from a desk almost tipping over and made the most of it which the audience appreciated. His connection with all the other players was near faultless and his movements added to his overall performance.
When Willy Wonka was Joined on stage by Alyssa Faranda as Charlie Bucket it was immediately obvious that we were to be entertained by a voice that was powerful with very clear diction and from a thirteen-year-old that we will surely be seeing and hearing from in the future. Her involvement in six musical numbers gave further examples of her talent.
The static performances of the Grandmas and Grandpas reclining together in a bed was simple but effective. Grandma Josephine played by Emily Grieger was joined by Grandpa George played by Andrew Cridland with Kylie Mobbs as Grandma Georgina completing the bed ridden oldies. They all complemented the singing particularly with the ‘I’ve Got a Golden Ticket‘ number. The fourth Grandparent was Grandpa Joe played by Connor Russell who miraculously recovered and was able to get out of bed and support Charlie. His duet with Charlie singing ‘Charlie, You & I’ cemented the feelings between these two.
Mrs Bucket was the typical caring mother and Mandy Russell portrayed with a feeling appropriate for this role. She was a delight when able to show her singing ability.
The gold ticket winners all gave performances with some memorable pieces. Rhys Young played the overweight Augustus Gloop who was ejected from the factory much to the consternation of his Mother Mrs Gloop, played by Lily Cotton. Ava Cannard as Veruca Salt was able to demonstrate some of her ballet talents while berating her father Mr Salt the Russian business man convincingly played by Rohan Eldridge. Teresa van der Hoek as Violet Beauregarde blasted out ‘The Queen Of Pop’ before exploding over her father played by Carter Wagland. The other ticket holder to be ejected was Mike Teavee whose typical teenager antics were identifiable to a lot of parents. His demise saw him collected in the handbag of his ever-loving Mother Played by Riley Mobbs.
Cameo performances by Mya Osborne as Cherry, Micah Oster as Jerry and Bianca Woods as Mrs Green all added important pieces to the show.