Reinventing Pure Imagination: Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka

Reinventing Pure Imagination: Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka

Since the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory first premiered in 1971, it seems that every child in America has thrilled to the songs of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. "The Candyman" alone could easily pass for the anthem of childhood, with its cheerful homage to all things delicious, but paired with the dreamy and prolific “Pure Imagination,” Bricusse and Newley prove that they can capture lightning in a bottle time and again.

In this musical stage version, adapted by Bricusse and Tim McDonald, Bricusse and Newley have done it again. The new songs are every bit as charming as the originals and bring a fresh burst of energy to the story. Every winner of a lucky Golden Ticket is given his or her own musical identity. In addition to Veruca Salt's show-stopping "I Want It Now," the songwriters give us Mike Teavee's "I See It All On TV," Violet Beauregarde's "Chew It," and Augustus Gloop's gluttonous mother-and-son duet "I Eat More." The score, while well-rounded and bright, keeps the air of mysterious trickery that captivated audiences the first time around.

The story, full of twists and turns, children both devious and delightful, lends itself to productions of all kinds. Whether featuring high-tech sets and costumes that mirror those seen in the films or taking a more intimate approach with minimal staging, the story holds true. A director of a recent school production of Willy Wonka Junior was inspired by the dance company Pilobolus and used children cast as Oompa-Loompas to create the paddle boat, the Wonkavator, and all of the chocolate factory’s magical machines with different configurations of their tumbling bodies. The Kennedy Center Theater Lab's production opened with a bare stage, allowing the audience’s imaginations to take flight as the set materialized before them in what Bricusse and Newley would be proud to call "a world of pure imagination." Puppetry, projections, elevators that seem to fly – as the great candy maker himself sings, "Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it."

To license Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka, check out its MTI show page. To share your thoughts on the show, visit Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka’s MTI ShowSpace page. For photos from the Kennedy Center's production, visit the MTI Vault's album.

Also available for licensing are Willy Wonka Junior, Willy Wonka KIDS, and Willy Wonka TYA.