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Theatre / The Golden Ticket

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The Golden Ticket is an English-language opera by Peter Ash (music) and Donald Sturrock (libretto) based on the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factorynote . It was first produced in full in 2010 by the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, and the subsequent 2012 Atlanta Opera production was recorded and released on CD. The story is very much the familiar one, albeit with several supporting characters eliminated and a few twists — particularly in regard to the Spoiled Brat Veruca Salt.


See also the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character sheet.

Along with many tropes from its source novel, this opera contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Villainy: Veruca Salt and her father agree to secretly photograph/film the top secret factory at the request of a television reporter, which makes them spies. While the novel and all other adaptations have them be the third group eliminated from the tour, here they're the last to go, and while her father is described as a "loving parent" in the Oompa-Loompa song underscoring their fates in the book, here the equivalent line calls him "greedy, grasping, rotten" instead.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Unlike in the novel and other adaptations, there's no mention of why Willy Wonka became a recluse and closed his factory to outsiders in the first place — he did it to stop other candymakers from sending in spies to steal his work. This isn't a huge loss, but it is significant, especially since the Adaptational Villainy hinges on the now-secret nature of the place. Also, the Oompa-Loompas are just there, with not even a quick explanation as to what they are (a tribe of little people from a faraway land) or how they came to work in his factory.
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  • Adapted Out: Charlie's parents, and one parent each for the four brats.
  • All There in the Script: The libretto reveals that the three kids who accidentally knock down Charlie on their way out of the sweetshop and later express their jealously over not finding Golden Tickets are named Miranda Grope, Marvin Prune, and Herpes Trout. Grope and Prune were children cut from the novel in early drafts (the former would have joined Augustus in the chocolate river, the latter was conceited), and Herpes Trout was Mike Teavee's original name.
  • Alternate Continuity: As with most adaptations, it ends on a note of complete closure rather than setting up the events of the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
  • Animals Not to Scale / Rodents of Unusual Size: The squirrels are human-sized.
  • Arc Words: "Lucky" and "unlucky". Charlie thinks he's terminally unlucky (living in poverty as he is and thus unable to find a Golden Ticket) but Grandpa Joe believes the opposite about himself (he has a home and a loving family after all) and later reminds Charlie to "be lucky!" when they have to split up in the factory. Even Lord Salt worries "Maybe the odds are turning against me?" when his efforts to find a Golden Ticket for his daughter look doomed to failure. As for Mr. Know the sweetshop owner, he believes that a person makes their own luck...
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  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Rather than the Nut Room of the novel, Mr. Wonka's walnut-sorting squirrels live in this, and come complete with Turkish-styled costumes and music. (There's an in-story justification — the nuts are used in Turkish delight.) Mr. Wonka even introduces the setting with "Welcome to my bizarre bazaar!"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Oompa-Loompas do this a few times in their scene-ending songs: "But don't, dear audience, be alarmed..."
  • Bubble Gun: The novel's Television-Chocolate setup is replaced with "Bubblevision", in which colored beams of light are used to create and send giant bubbles that can surround and transport objects to television screens — albeit at a reduced, "demagnified" size. Mike Teavee is intrigued by the prospect of not just floating, but living in one of these bubbles, and wackiness ensues.
  • ...But He Sounds Handsome: Inverted when Mr. Know says, after Charlie tells him that he didn't find a Golden Ticket and won't be able to meet Willy Wonka, "And anyway, Wonka's bonkers!...He's a silly and strange old man!/Who wants to meet him?"
  • Canon Foreigner: Candy Mallow, the television reporter in Act One.
  • Composite Character
    • Willy Wonka's King Incognito masquerade as Mr. Know means that his role is combined with the minor character of the sweetshop owner. He also fills a Parental Substitute role for Charlie by the show's end, compensating for Mr. and Mrs. Bucket being Adapted Out.
    • Grandpa Joe becomes the one person capable of supporting (to a tiny extent, granted) the rest of the Bucket family, combining that role with that of Charlie's Adapted Out father.
    • Lord Salt being the owner of a candy factory — as opposed to the nut factory of the novel — and spying on the Wonka Factory during the tour merges his character with the rival candymakers who almost ruined Mr. Wonka in the novel's Backstory, which is not discussed here.
  • Cool Train: The dwindling tour group takes one to get to the Bazaar of the Bizarre.
  • Creative Sterility: The four bratty kids are all afflicted by this. As they reflect on their fates in the finale: "We didn't really dream at all./And so we got our just reward/For being greedy, spoiled and bored."
  • Door Closes Ending: The show ends with Charlie and the rest of the company re-entering the factory, and Charlie himself closing the gate shut.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Closes out Act One as Mr. Wonka leads the guests into the depths of the factory.
  • Dream Sequence: The night before Charlie's birthday, he dreams of having a party climaxed by his finding a Golden Ticket. The actual birthday celebration isn't nearly so happy.
  • Edible Theme Naming: One-off example with Candy Mallow.
  • Floating in a Bubble: See Bubble Gun above.
  • Foil: Veruca Salt to Charlie Bucket — she is ruthless, selfish, materialistic, and wealthy, while he is self-sacrificing, honest, and poor. Because the show starts In Medias Res and changes the plot to have Veruca get the fourth ticket rather than the second, the contrast between her charmed world and his is more obvious than in other versions. Lord Salt, her Corrupt Corporate Executive father, is also this to Willy Wonka, as both are candy factory owners and serve as/become father figures to Veruca and Charlie, respectively.
  • Genius Loci: The factory is one, according to Willy Wonka: "My factory is alive. It thinks things. It does things. Even I am sometimes surprised." This explains the gargoyles, though contrary to Mr. Wonka's dialogue suggesting that it will, it doesn't affect the plot.
  • Greek Chorus: The gargoyles in Act One and the Oompa-Loompas and Squirrels in Act Two.
  • Happily Ever After: The exact words are used in the finale chorus, which celebrates Charlie becoming a Grade-School C.E.O. now that Mr. Wonka has passed the torch to him (the 2013 stage musical has a similar wrap-up).
  • Hand Gagging: One of the squirrels muzzles Veruca in this manner as their leader "tests" her by tapping her head.
  • Happy Birthday to You!: The grandparents sing this to Charlie to try and cheer him up after his birthday bar of chocolate turns out not to have a Golden Ticket. He appreciates their effort...
  • I Can See My House from Here: An odd variation — Mr. Wonka points Charlie's house out to him during their trip in the Great Glass Elevator ("Look, Charlie, there's your house!").
  • If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You: The grandparents discuss this in "Pale Green Blues" with regards to their dreaded cabbage soup: "Cabbage soup, a kow kum kas!/Full of goodness, but it gives us GAS.../tric reflux when we eat too fast!"
  • In Medias Res: The story begins shortly after the third Golden Ticket has been found.
  • "I Want" Song: The segment "Dreams and Ambitions" is this for Charlie, who wants to escape his dreary existence and journey into the magical worlds he sees in his mind. The sequence directly contrasts this with Veruca ruing her inability to procure a Golden Ticket.
  • Karma Houdini: Veruca and Lord Salt get their comeuppance, but Candy Mallow — who approached them with the offer to secretly film the factory in the first place — is completely forgotten after the events of Act One.
  • Kids Are Cruel / Teens Are Monsters: Violet — who is obsessed with looking thin — picks on Augustus over his weight and even says with regard to his karmic fate "He deserves it. He was fat!" Veruca is much nastier in her bossiness than in other versions to the point of Enfant Terrible, and she looks down upon poor Charlie, as does the Sociopathic Soldier wannabe Mike Teavee (who is stated to be 13 in the libretto, thus invoking the latter of these two tropes).
  • King Incognito: All signs point to Mr. Know and Willy Wonka being the same person (the latter using a Wig, Dress, Accent disguise...without the accent!), to the point that there isn't even a reveal of that fact, but Charlie never figures it out.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Violet insists on calling Augustus "Gussie" during their joint TV interview (and Candy Mallow picks up on this) despite his objections.
  • Midword Rhyme: Used twice in "Pale Green Blues" for the purposes of mild Toilet Humor. (See If It Tastes Bad, It Must Be Good for You above for the other example.)
    Cabbage soup, a kow kum kee!
    Very healthy, but it smells like PEO...
    Ple boiled up something from the drains!
  • Mysterious Mist / Ominous Fog: When the gates to the factory open at the end of the first act, a huge cloud of what the libretto describes as "steam and smoke" begins to fill the entire stage. Mr. Wonka leads the tour group right into it, while the observing crowd backs away in terror...
  • "No Talking or Phones" Warning: In-universe. To preserve the secrets of his factory, Mr. Wonka warns his guests that no cameras are allowed inside. As written, he looks at Veruca and her father as he says this; as the audience learns in Act Two, he's right to be suspicious of them.
  • Obsessed with Food: Charlie's grandparents — not just because food is so scarce for them (as in the novel), but because all they are getting is cabbage soup, which they loathe. And, naturally, all of Augustus Gloop's dialogue boils down to how much he loves eating.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: The outer wall of the factory is topped by living gargoyles that serve as a Greek Chorus in Act One. The only one aware that they are alive (as they usually freeze when people look at them) seems to be sweetshop owner Mr. Know, one clue that there's likely more to him than meets the eye.
  • Plot Hole: Grandpa Joe stays behind with the distraught Mrs. Teavee after her son is miniaturized. The next time the audience sees him, it's the next morning and he's back home in bed with the other grandparents. How did he get out of the factory — and why did he just go home without Charlie?
  • Race Lift: The Atlanta Opera staging alternated two child actors in the role of Charlie. One of the two, Reuben Roy, was black even though all of his grandparents were played by white performers. This was likely a case of Ability over Appearance.
  • Running Gag: See Talking in Your Sleep below.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: A fairly subtle one — Mr. Know's first name isn't revealed, but according to the sign of his sweetshop, its initial is A...
  • Set Switch Song: Two of the Oompa-Loompa Aesop segments serve this function.
  • Something Blues: Non-blues music example with "Pale Green Blues", sung by the grandparents as they proclaim both their hatred of cabbage soup and yearning for Wonka chocolate.
  • Start My Own: Discussed: Mr. Know suggests to Charlie, after the above-mentioned inversion of ...But He Sounds Handsome, that they could create their own sweets. Charlie, with his encouragement, comes up with the idea of a blue egg that dissolves on the tongue to leave only a pink sugar baby bird. During the flight in the Great Glass Elevator, Mr. Wonka asks Charlie what his first recipe is going to be now that he's inheriting the factory, and the egg/bird concept is revisited.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: The Obsessed with Food grandparents mumble thusly: "Honey bun..." "Butter muffin..." "Sugar puff..." "Sausage pot..."
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Of all foods, the grandparents are most obsessed with Wonka's chocolate.
  • Waving Signs Around: In a positive example, at least in the Atlanta production the crowd gathered to see Mr. Wonka escort the Golden Ticket finders into the factory did this ("Atlanta Loves Wonka", "Marry Me Wonka", etc.).
  • What Does This Button Do?: Lord Salt secretly fiddles with the controls of the Bubblevision machine during Mr. Wonka's initial demonstration of it in an attempt to figure out how it works; this destroys the bubble on display.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Did Augustus, Violet, and Mike's parents ever get out of the factory? They aren't seen in the finale when the other kids emerge, as their actors are playing Charlie's other grandparents.
  • You Are Fat: Because Kids Are Cruel, Violet Beauregarde constantly and bluntly teases Fat and Proud Augustus: "Dear boy, you're just fat! It's disgusting!/You're SOOOOO fat!" This makes her own comeuppance — a transformation into a giant blueberry — a touch more poetic than in other versions.


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