Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Jul. 14–Aug. 19
Everyone’s seen “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” whether it’s the 1971 version with Gene Wilder (if you’re an old fart like me) or the 2005 remake with Johnny Depp (if you’re a young’un) that uses the original title of the Roald Dahl book on which both are based, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” But have you ever seen the stage version? Berkeley Playhouse is staging the musical, complete with favorite songs like “The Candy Man,” “(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket” and “Pure Imagination,” this summer. This adaptation was written in part by the original composers of the 1971 film, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. The Playhouse’s production features Bay Area recording artist Vernon Bush, whose artistic experiences have ranged from working with Whitney Houston to being a featured vocalist at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, in the role of the eccentric candy maker. If the photos are any indication, it looks like they’re sticking to the original look created for the 1971 film, at least as far as the costumes go. But this version also features a little original stage magic in the form of aerial acrobatics and bungee jumping. Visit berkeleyplayhouse.org.
Caroline’s Other Picks
Sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell when the guys (and gals) of PianoFight are joking, as in their press release for their upcoming show, “Duck Lake,” which they have billed “Almost certainly the world’s first ballet-horror-comedy.” “Duck Lake” choreographer Brian Gibbs says of the production, “I'm attracted to this project because I enjoy the challenge of staying true to the Petipa grande ballet tradition, including its beautiful Tchaikovsky music and timeless dances, while adding new modern and comedic twist to the story.” Wait, what? These are the same folks who brought us Throw Rotten Veggies at the Actors Night? And more importantly, what the heck is the Petipa grande ballet tradition? But it seems these lovable goofballs may be growing up after all, as evidenced by their plans to turn Original Joe’s in the Tenderloin into an entertainment complex with theatres, a restaurant and a bar. But lest you fear they take themselves too seriously, they promise there will be “lots and lots and lots of ducks.” Visit pianofight.com.
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Aug. 24–Oct. 7
David Henry Hwang is probably best known as the author of “M. Butterfly.” Besides winning a slew of awards, the seminal play, based on the true story of a French diplomat who fell in love with a Chinese man posing as a woman, made Hwang the first Asian American to win a Tony for best play. “Chinglish,” Hwang’s newest play, takes its name from the intermingling of the two languages, which in the case of signs made by a nonnative speaker, can lead to downright comic effects. I don’t just mention this because a Google search of the title leads to multiple websites devoted to funny signs—though there are some priceless ones—but also because the play’s plot hinges on the production of some such signs. Visit berkeleyrep.org.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Marin Shakespeare Company
Jul. 20–Sep. 30
Before you roll your eyes and groan, “Not another production of ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream,’” let me just say, this one looks pretty cool. As someone who has seen one too many productions of the Bard’s popular comedy, I too was initially wary. But looking at a photo of the production, which director Robert Currier has set on the islands of Hawaii, I can’t help but be intrigued. Jarion Monroe’s outrageous whiskers and slaphappy grin as Bottom, piña colada in hand, and Cat Thompson’s red tresses intermingling with her leis as Titania, leaning in for a kiss, seem pitch-perfect. The islands of Hawaii also seem like a natural stand-in for the magical forest home of the fairies, at least to a mainlander like me. Visit marinshakespeare.org.
Caroline Anderson is Theatre Bay Area's listings editor.
Vernon Bush as Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” at Berkeley Playhouse.
Photo: Jessica Palopoli
Caroline’s Editor’s Picks