Listen: Actor Tony Sheldon chats to Katrina Roe. Above: Xion Jarvis (Charlie) and Tony Sheldon (Grandpa Joe) in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, (c) Jeff Busby
You’d be hard pressed to find an Aussie kid who hasn’t fallen in love with Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Since its release in 1964, the book has sold more than 20 million copies and been adapted for film twice. Now, it’s a sophisticated stage show that is delighting kids and adults alike.
Actor Tony Sheldon is regarded as Australian show business royalty and he plays the part of Charlie’s endearing Grandpa, Grandpa Jo, who accompanies Charlie on his adventure.
“I do love the fact that he inspires Charlie, the leading character, to think outside the box,” Tony said. “The Bucket family have nothing. They’re completely poor. But they have a very rich imagination and Grandpa Jo is always encouraging Charlie to see things that aren’t there, to look beyond their circumstances. And because of that Charlie has a very good heart, he’s very generous and he’s kind and that’s what gets him into the chocolate factory and ultimately to victory.”
The Magnificent Challenge of Working with Kids
Tony says it has been a challenge to work with the four different kids who play Charlie Bucket in the stage show.
“They’re all very different personalities and there’s a slight age difference between them, too. And their backgrounds are different. Some of them are very confident and they’re trained performers. Some of them are younger and very instinctive… You have to adjust your performance to the kid. It’s a fascinating exercise. I’ve never worked this closely with child performers before. You just pray that they’re not going to outgrow the part, because kids of that age shoot up very suddenly and their voices break so you’re hoping day to day that they’re still going to be the adorable little tyke that they were the day before.”
Tony believes part of the appeal of the show is the dark suspense of the character of Willy Wonka and the inherent danger in the story which makes it exciting for the audience.
“All the children come to a pretty sticky end at some point and it’s all in the book, so anybody who knows the book should be prepared for it,” he said.
“It’s sort of a cautionary tale about badly behaved children – children who are selfish and who are indulged and who are inconsiderate and who are mean. They’re the other kids going through the factory and they get their comeuppance.”
By contrast, Charlie – who has always been generous and thinks of others – is there because he is truly passionate about learning how to make chocolate.
Tony says the whole company has been surprised by how warmly the audience has embraced this show.
“The response is fantastic,” he said. “They just love it. I haven’t done a show aimed largely at kids for a very long time, so just to hear those little voices squealing and giggling is a delight. It’s a new experience for me and I’m loving it!”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is on now at the Capitol Theatre. Find out more at charliethemusical.com.au.
All this week, Hope Mornings is giving away double passes to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Wednesday February 27 at 7.30pm