Tastes like snosberriesWilly Wonka

Willy Wonka; 8:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. $5-$15. The Fair Oaks Theatre Festival, Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre, 7991 California Avenue, Fair Oaks; (916) 966-3683; www.fairoakstheatrefestival.com. Through July 22.

Veterans Memorial Theatre

203 E. 14th St.
Davis, CA 95616

(530) 757-5626

Rated 2.0

The cast is garbed in bright attire and the actors are obviously having a good time, but this adaptation of the beloved Roald Dahl tale, directed by Bob Irvin, loses much of the magic. Instead of the dark and lovely tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, we get a lightweight confection in which more songs have been substituted for less substance.

Willy Wonka (Jonathan Blum) is a famous chocolatier who sets up a contest for a tour of his stupendous factory. Will unlucky-but-positive Charlie Bucket (Brett Young/Elana Sogard) be able to find the golden ticket and gain admission? The musical has the well-known story, but adds a number of “musical” songs: A line a character says is turned from a line into a song.

Still, the original tunes are fun and memorable to hear. The mix-n-match children and parents are a roulette wheel of funny and ill-timed bits, and the bedridden grandparents suffer from slow timing and unfunny, repetitive jokes, tempered by the children’s ensemble of Oompa Loompas and “candy kids,” who provide ample entertainment in the cute department.

In this telling, Willy Wonka is narrator of the action, often popping up needlessly to sing a song or introduce the next something-or-other. Blum’s Wonka deprives the wondrous candy man of much of his majesty and individualism, culminating in a wobbly two-dimensional character. Despite his excellent costume, he’s not making everything he bakes satisfying and delicious. Instead, this musical adaptation by Leslie Bricusse and Tim McDonald ought be buried in sand and forgotten.

However, if audience members wish to take a chance on a night under the stars with a colorful, enthusiastically performed musical, perhaps they will disagree with this critic.