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‘Chocolate Factory’ brings sweet musical treat to Benedum Center |
Theater & Arts

‘Chocolate Factory’ brings sweet musical treat to Benedum Center

Candy Williams
| Wednesday, January 23, 2019 11:00 a.m


Pittsburgh audiences are in for a sweet treat when the national tour of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” makes its area premiere Jan. 29-Feb. 3 in the Benedum Center, as part of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series.

Noah Weisberg, whose Broadway credits include “South Pacific,” “Elf” and “Legally Blonde,” is molding his own brand as chocolatier Willy Wonka in the production, choosing not to try to replicate the portrayal of the late Gene Wilder in the 1971 movie version of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

“I couldn’t possibly reproduce his performance,” Weisberg said, “so I decided I was going to do what I was trained to do — you bring yourself to your role.”

The actor, who studied in Chicago and at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, said, “When I feel disconnected, I can hear my acting teacher saying, ‘Be yourself.’ ”

Feels like home

Weisberg credits his father for encouraging his love of the theater, which he said “felt like home” when he was growing up in Chicago and decided he was not cut out to pursue sports.

“I’d always be doing a lot of plays, and one day my dad went to the record store and brought home 12 CDs of Broadway shows, ranging from ‘Fiorello’ to ‘A Chorus Line.’ He handed them to me and said, ‘You need to know these shows; start listening.”

The actor said the re-imagined touring production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, is a first-class creation — with favorite songs from the film, including “Pure Imagination” and “The Candy Man,” in addition to a new score from the songwriters of “Hairspray.”

The most beautiful song in the show, according to Weisberg, is “The View from Here,” featuring a glass elevator that actually flies Wonka and young Charlie above the stage, with lyrics offering a perspective of age and experience.

Henry Boshart, 10, Collin Jeffery, 11, and Rueby Wood, 11, alternate in the title role of Charlie Bucket, the boy who wins the Golden Ticket and gets a tour of the chocolate factory — and a lot more.

Pittsburgh connections

A fun addition to the production is the portrayal of Violet Beauregarde by Brynn Williams, who also is the real-life niece of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and his wife, fashion designer Kiya Tomlin.

Williams’ character is the chronic gum-chewing “Queen of Pop,” a very ambitious and self-confident local Instagram celebrity who finds one of the Golden Tickets in a chocolate bar.

She made her Broadway debut at age 12 in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and has since appeared in five other Broadway shows, most recently in “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Her theater bucket list includes playing Elphaba in a production of “Wicked” and originating a role of her own.

“It’s such fun to be part of a musical that has a great message based on the beloved story that everyone knows,” she says of her current role. “Everything about this show is cool — from the music and amazing lighting design to the Oompah Loompahs that are absolutely fantastic.”

Williams has sung the National Anthem at several Steelers games and has participated in Steelers fashion shows, modeling outfits from Kiya Tomlin’s clothing line.

“She’s more into couture now, but she does make my opening night outfits for red carpet events and parties,” the actor says.

Amanda Rose (Mrs. Bucket) and David Paul Kidder (ensemble), who have performed with Pittsburgh CLO, also are in the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” cast.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review
contributing writer.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Brynn Williams (second from right) sings about being the “Queen of Pop” in a scene from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Jan .29-Feb. 3 at Benedum Center.
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Members of the cast of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," playing Jan. 29-Feb. 3 at Benedum Center.
Brynn Williams finds one of the Golden Tickets in a chocolate bar in her role in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," playing Jan. 29-Feb. 3 at Benedum Center.
Photos: Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
Charlie finds the winning Golden Ticket in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” playing Jan. 29-Feb. 3 at the Benedum Center.
Photos: Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
The cast of ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” playing Jan. 29-Feb. 3 at the Benedum Center.
Categories: Features | Theater Arts
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