by Kevin Shaw | photo courtesy of Orpheum Memphis
Whether you’re a fan of the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder (you’re a treasure to me) or the 2005 movie starring Johnny Depp (you’re dead to me), you’re sure to find something to enjoy about the next show coming to town. When the national tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-The Musical merrily strolls into Memphis for a one-week run at the Orpheum Theatre, it will be showcasing a familiar face to local theatregoers. Along with that eccentric candy maker, mounds of sugar and bratty kids, Nicole Hale will be returning to where she got her start as a Playhouse on the Square intern back in 2009. In this tour, Hale will be playing Cherry Sundae (an over-the-top news reporter) and a member of the ensemble. Hailing from Kentucky, this is Hale’s first national tour and she was very excited that Memphis is one of the first legs of this recently revamped touring production. Focus Magazine caught up with her while she was back at home in Kentucky on a short visit with her family.
Focus: Tell me about this incarnation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Hale: Well, the original version of this show played Broadway back in 2017 and then the first national tour played for about a year before closing in October of 2019. This is the 2nd national tour and we just opened the show in Miami and took off a week for the holidays before coming to Memphis.
So how long have you been with the show?
We just started rehearsals at the end of November. It was a short rehearsal period—only about four weeks and then we opened in Miami. This is an entirely brand new cast!
How different is this version compared to Broadway and first national tour?
I believe there have been some minor changes, but, for the most part, the sets are the same and the choreography is the same. I don’t think anyone would notice the changes between the two versions.
Did you audition for this show in New York?
Yes. I got a call from my agent and I went in. It was a pretty fast audition process in that the whole experience took about two weeks before I was cast.
How long will you be with the tour?
Hale: Right now, we are booked through the end of June. We will be in Nashville before our final stop in Tulsa, but there is always a chance that the tour could extend beyond that.
Of course, I’ve seen the movie, but I haven’t seen this stage version. I understand that all of the children in the show (except for Charlie) are played by adults. Do you know why the decision was made to cast these important roles with adults?
I believe they did it to draw a very clear line showing Charlie as a more innocent and
demure child. While having adults playing the spoiled kids allows them to be even more vile and sour and easier for the audience to dislike. It’s actually hilarious.
With this being your first national tour, how does it feel to be out on the road?
I’m super excited! I’m excited to be seeing so many different places! The hardest part for me will be living out of a suitcase for six months, but I will deal.
So, talk about your time here in Memphis with Playhouse on the Square.
Yes! I was with Playhouse during the 2009-2010 season (Hairspray, Oliver!, The Miracle Worker, The 25th Putnam County Spelling Bee). I have been back twice to do Xanadu and 9 to 5: The Musical.
Have you been keeping in touch with the friends you made here in Memphis?
Yes! I was recently married in May and several of my friends from Memphis were invited to that shindig.
Will they be coming to see you in this show at the Orpheum?
I certainly hope so!
Is there anything we should know about this show that will compel audiences to really want to come out and see it?
Well, it’s a show for all ages. It’s entertaining for the children and it’s got dry humor for the adults—something for everyone. Plus, I don’t want to give anything away, but, in Act Two, I get to play another character and you’ll just have to see how we do it. It’s the Oompa Loompas!
January 14-19, 2020