Willy Wonka and his Everlasting Gobstopper have made their way to The Saenger Theatre this week. For a week-long engagement, Wonka, Charlie and gang will deliver inventions, magic and music to the people of New Orleans.
The musical, based off of the popular movie, will feature well-known songs like “Pure Imagination,” “The Candy Man,” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” around costume and set designs by various Tony Award winners and nominees.
In preparation for the show, I interviewed Caitlin Lester-Sams, who plays Mrs. Bucket, about her experience with the show and what she’s looking forward to stopping in New Orleans.
Kelly Massicot: How would you describe “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” the musical?
Caitlin Lester-Sams: It’s a musical for ages 6 to 106. Our show follows the same plot as the classic movie and brings it to life on stage. It’s a story about imagination, family, and your wildest dreams coming true.
KM: What’s your favorite part about being in this production?
CLS: Our cast is wildly talented and I love watching them shine on stage every night. Hearing an audience laugh is one of my favorite things in life and I never get tired of it. I also love traveling the country and exploring cities I probably wouldn’t have the chance to visit otherwise.
KM: What’s your favorite song, or moment, during the show?
CLS: My favorite number to perform is the song “If Your Father Were Here” which my character sings to Charlie. It’s a beautiful, warm song that I think reveals the real family bond the Buckets have. My favorite song that I’m not is “Queen of Pop.” It is so catchy and fun with brilliantly written backup vocals. I think it could be a top 40 hit on the radio!
KM: The movie is iconic, did that bring any pressure to playing the characters on stage?
CLS: I grew up watching the movie (on VHS!) so there definitely is a hope that the audience leaves feeling as captivated as I was as a kid. Personally as an actor I try to watch other performances and let them inspire my own, but I look to the script and my own life experience to inform most of the character choices I make on stage.
KM: What sets the stage show apart from the movie or story that everyone already knows?
CLS: You’ll see a lot of your favorite moments from both versions of the film, but now it’s happening right in front of you! The difference between film and stage is that you’re bound by the scientific laws of the real world. There’s no CGI or editing tricks to make the magic happen. Our creative team has transformed a lot of the magic of Willy Wonka’s factory to the stage beautifully in my opinion. There are so many technical elements working behind the scenes and plenty of surprises for the audience.
KM: Have you been to New Orleans before, and what are you excited to experience in the city?
CLS: I have! I visited New Orleans last November with the national tour of Elf the Musical and I fell head over heels for the city. I love just walking the streets and taking in the beautiful architecture, the music, the food, the history, all of it. Absolutely looking forward to hearing more live music on Frenchman St, eating beignets and a shoe sole pastry if I can find one, and maybe making a special trip to the bar Erin Rose for a frozen Irish coffee. These answers reveal that I have a real sweet tooth but that makes me a great fit for our show!