Summer showtime

Tommy Blair, Ryan Yeates, Oliver Alkhair and Xion Jarvis share the role of Charlie Bucket – the son of Mrs Bucket, played by Lucy Maunder.

THERE may be no greater joy than entering a fantastical chocolate-filled world of wonder with the eccentric Willy Wonka, endearing Grandpa Joe and enough toffee-apple trees to make your head spin.

With white overalls, blazing green hair and a burnt orange complexion that mimics a spray tan gone horribly wrong, the delightful oompa loompas – however disconcerting in their strange uniformity – are not to be forgotten either.

But the premise of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory isn’t all so scrumdiddlyumptious, as Melbourne-based Jewish actor Jake Fehily, who plays Augustus Gloop in the upcoming production at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, shared in an interview with The AJN.

“I like that the story is not just a happy one about imagination. The whole idea is that imagination and beauty and all these nice things come with a price,” remarked 22-year-old Fehily.

Relaying some thoughtful insights shared by the musical’s director – three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien – Fehily commented: “What makes it even more special for [the kids] to be at Wonka’s factory are these rules and challenges.

“It’s not just a beautiful world of chocolate where they can come and go. Once they enter the factory, they realise that there are rules and regulations that they have to abide by, or else they will not be able to experience the actual wonder.”

It’s an interesting concept when imagination is typically free to roam wild uninhibited by standard societal forms of regulation, but Wonka’s string of strict rules suggest that all good things – even freedom and imagination – come with a price.

Perhaps then, imagination isn’t so “pure” after all.

In any event, the lucky five who find golden tickets certainly aren’t; gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde gives in to temptation when she tries Wonka’s new experimental flavour of gum, defying the factory owner’s instruction, and overindulged Veruca Salt demands one of Wonka’s squirrels, only to be ambushed by a scurry of them.

Jake Fehily, starring as August Gloop, enters a world of Pure Imagination in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

“If you’re bad or greedy, these things can have terrible consequences,” said Fehily, whose character is sucked up a pipe after he dares to drink straight from the chocolate river.

Despite Fehily’s unfortunate predicament, rehearsals are proving light-hearted and energetic for the young actor, who is relishing the opportunity to put his own personal touch on the role he proudly plays.

“You have to come to rehearsals with a really playful approach,” said Fehily. “[The creative team] make you feel like you can take it anywhere you want it, and it’s a lot more exciting as an actor. It’s not so rigid.”

Due to kick off the new year at the Capitol Theatre on January 5, the Australian premiere season of this charming Roald Dahl classic stars Tony Sheldon, Lucy Maunder and Paul Slade Smith.

Moving from the Capitol Theatre’s comfortable confines to Sydney’s splendid harbour, forbidden lovers are set to perform in an enthralling outdoor production of West Side Story against a sparkling cityscape aglow with fireworks erupting every night of performance.

American director Francesca Zambello takes the helm in this popular story with Australian opera stars Julie Lea Goodwin playing Maria and Alexander Lewis as Tony. Featuring Leonard Bernstein’s marvellous musical score and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the musical is being staged by Opera Australia and runs from March 22 to April 21.

If this modern-day Romeo and Juliet whets one’s appetite for Shakespeare, theatregoers can head to the 10th anniversary of Sydney Hills Shakespeare in the Park and Leura Shakespeare Festival and witness Jewish actress Wendy Strehlow in Rose Riot – a new adaption of Shakespeare’s history plays for theatre company Sport for Jove.

Rose Riot is such an epic production that I am playing many, many characters, but one of my favourites is Mistress Quickly who owns a tavern. She’s wonderful, fallible and entirely human,” said Strehlow.

“I also play the Bishop Carlisle who is a voice of reason in the play, forever trying to convince kings to avoid war and bloodshed.

Wendy Strehlow plays the iconic roles of Mistress Quickly and Queen Margaret in Rose Riot. Photo: Seiya Taguchi.

“Shakespeare writes the most beautiful anti-war poetry for the Bishop, it’s such a joy to perform.

“The themes of war and the dearth of leadership are still so pertinent today.”

Onto a heartbreaking romantic musical Aspects of Love at the Hayes Theatre where charming actress Rose Vibert, played by Caitlin Berry, falls in love with Alex Dillingham, a young, obsessive student travelling through France. However, their passionate bond is put to the test when Alex’s debonair uncle arrives on the scene.

Paying homage to the timeless notion that love changes everything, the musical is being staged until the end of December, with a possible extension until January 7.

Co-producers and choreographer Nathan Wright and director Andrew Bevis said: “We’re both huge fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love. The intimate setting of the Hayes Theatre is ideal for this chamber musical. It’s lush and sweeping score is showcased with a 12-piece orchestra.”

In a thrilling display of daredevilry, masterful magicians perform in The Illusionists: Direct From Broadway.

Equipped with death-defying acts and breathtaking magic tricks, The Illusionists returns to Sydney with a new show, The Illusionists: Direct From Broadway, at the Sydney Opera House from December 19-29.

The West End comedy play Peter Pan Goes Wrong offers plenty of laughs as the cast, led by stage and screen star Jay Laga’aia, battle technical hitches, flying mishaps and cast disputes as they try to present J M Barrie’s classic story at the Sydney Lyric Theatre from February 13.

SOPHIE DEUTSCH