Scared Straight

And so the enduring fairy tale of Willy Wonka continues into the 21st century. The story, created by prolific children's novelist and noted anti-Semite, Roald Dahl, has already appeared on the big screen twice—one more than absolutely necessary—and been staged in God knows how many community playhouses. Now, the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration brings their musical adaptation to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in hopes of scaring the bejesus out of a whole new generation of children.

By now, it's no secret that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a seriously twisted story, rife with child torture, cultish overtones and a menacing sense of schadenfreude. Is it any wonder that satanic shock-rocker and Columbine mastermind Marilyn Manson utilized the book's imagery to such great effect in the mid-'90s before he mellowed out as a result of finding himself married to Dita Von Teese? What is sometimes forgotten is that it is precisely the story's menace, rather than the fantasy of unlimited candy, that makes it appeal to people who can't stand to see evil rewarded. Hell, I'm always thrilled when Veruca Salt gets dumped into the incinerator and Mike Teevee shrinks to the size of a GI Joe. One less future celebutante and Maxim subscriber the world has to endure.

While I haven't seen this particular adaptation, the blurb on the website promises "a labyrinth of lemon drops . . . and giggles galore." The accompanying picture of the set seems to indicate that this particular production will be heavy on the Technicolor, light on the evil—so even if you have particularly sensitive children, they probably won't need much more than a warm glass of milk to get to sleep in the evening. But please be sure to tell them that if they fall out of line, they might be kidnapped by a diminutive cane-wielding pedophile who will drown them in chocolate while a gang of singing little people egg him on. You'll never have a problem with the little bastards again.

The Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration on Tour presents Roald Dahl's Willy Wonkaat the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Dr., Cerritos, (800) 300-4345; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. $32-$43; family package of four or more tickets, $28 per ticket.


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