Before there was “Shrek” and so many other children’s movies that have veiled innuendos that capture the attention of adults, there was “Willy Wonka.”
“We have never done it and I have never seen it performed anywhere,” said Barry Liebman, who directs and produces the show. “It was a great Gene Wilder movie that people love.”
Liebman decided to have the curtain go up now because he thinks it is the perfect show to start the holiday season. “It is a musical and it is always great to have a musical around the holidays, Liebman said. “Plus the great story of Willy Wonka and the lessons to be learned make it a fabulous show for the holidays.”
The best parts of the movie are all incorporated into the show.
“We have the Gobstopper, nut machine, the chocolate vision room and the smell-o-vision,” said Liebman. “They all difficult concepts to put on stage but we have done it. We even have people flying.”
The key for Liebman was innovation and a colorful cast of characters who help bring the story to life.
Bringing Willy Wonka to life is Charles Hallock of Yonkers. He is a professional magician who performs as “The Great Charlini,” throughout the tri-state area.
“I enjoy doing magic because it’s my own creation,” Hallock said, who started doing magic when he was 15 years old. “At any moment, I can deviate from the script and improvise. Acting and magic go ‘hand-in-hand’ and play off each other incredibly.”
“Houdini said that part of being a magician is that you’re just an actor playing a magician,” Hallock said. “That’s why I love it.”
Hallock chose to audition for the play because Willy Wonka is one of his favorite all-time characters.
“When I saw the movie for the first time and saw Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka I loved the character—his eccentricities, his love of magical things,” Hallock said.
Liebman and Hallock have incorporated different magic routines and effects into the show.
“We have had a lot of fun working in different types of magic into the show and display this wonderful creative character of Willy Wonka,” Hallock said.
Hallock describes his version of Wonka as a little weirder than the one created by Wilder, but one that is not as dark as the 2005 Johnny Depp version of the character.
“The Willy Wonka I have developed has different mannerisms and quirks,” said Hallock. “I think at times he can be a little bit friendlier and other times a bit nastier. His personality is a little more diverse, but I was definitely influenced by the character Wilder brought to life.”
There will be eight performances of Willy Wonka beginning Friday, Nov. 18 at the Yorktown Stage, located at 1974 Commerce Street, Yorktown Heights.
Tickets are sale now and can be purchase online at yorktownstage.org, by calling 914-962-0606 or by visiting the box office.