Not so dark, but rich

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Through Oct. 7 at Orlando
Repertory Theatre
$15; 407-896-7365

The television news vans at Loch Haven Park on Friday night were there for Trinity Prep's controversial production of La Cage aux Folles, whose precipitous near-cancellation made blogs buzz nationwide. But it wasn't the only noteworthy production premiering at the Orlando Rep last weekend: For anyone with a sweet tooth for Roald Dahl's classic morality tale, the new production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is your golden ticket.

Director David Lee has crafted a confection sure to please fans of the book of all ages. The script, faithfully adapted by Richard R. George, starts with an exposition-heavy sprint through the story's opening chapters, cleverly framed as a WonkaTV talk show. The action accelerates to the titular candy plant, a spectacular set (by Vandy Wood) of sinuous white lines and revolving platforms that looks like a giant melted iPod. Complemented by Mack McLaughlin's rave-worthy lighting, Charlie makes the perfect setting for the saccharine dispatch of four hideous little brats — all ably acted, with the acerbically upper-crust Veruca Salt (Aubrey Peeples) as the standout. Just as delightful are the Oompa-Loompas that beset them with chipmunk voices and cute choreography.

Conducting the cocoa carnage with a malevolent twinkle in his eye is the delicious Tim DeBaun, whose Willy Wonka is like a campy Jiminy Cricket. (Between DeBaun's histrionically melodious line-readings and the rousing Dance Fever finale, this show may be gayer than the Harvey Fierstein musical next door.) The only thing holding Charlie back is the same flaw that marred the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp version: Charlie himself is an afterthought. The condensed story deprives us of opportunities to build empathy for the poor little Bucket boy, and Brandon Larracuente can't convey Charlie's quiet goodness when he's shouting every word. But like the orange cream in a sampler box, that shouldn't keep this production from leaving a pleasant taste in your mouth.

— Seth Kubersky

New girl in town

Light: An Exhibition of Photography
6 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13
Q Gallery at CityArts Factory
Free; 407-701-9382

Remember this name: Megan Bardoe. She's an Orlando native who spent a significant time abroad learning the art of curating, though she's only in her mid-20s. Having established her own business, MB Art Projects, Bardoe may be the missing link in Orlando's visual art evolution, building a bridge between artists and art lovers — a huge gap. ("It's just a matter of bringing people together," she says.) For a taste of her curating sensibilities, go to the opening reception of her latest project, Light.

Having worked with Lisa Cuatt at the Q Gallery for the last six months, she saw lots of paintings and sculpture in the space and thought, "Why not focus on photography for once?" She chose four shutterbugs for a mixture of maturity and youth, realism and whimsy. Douglas Nesbitt, an experienced local fixture, pulls urban portraits from his archive for his view of New York City and Los Angeles. Joshua Curry — the only contributor without an Orlando connection, he lives in Charleston — packs his B&W portraits with Southern culture. Jessica Libes and Carson Wampler offer fresh takes. Libes recently graduated from UCF, and she's sharing the results of her BFA project — B&W photos of vintage clothing labels that are rich in texture. Wampler, of the upstart Thread collective, has already amassed fans of his fabricated spaces, which he creates on a model scale (thought you'd never know it) and then captures using dramatic light sources for a tangle of shadows.

Bardoe is big on education, and in the press release, she writes, "Photographers are storytellers, weaving their tales and constructing stories through the medium of film." Come to experience these stories without words.

— Lindy T. Shepherd

Between the lines

Body of Evidence: Drawn From Life
Gallery talk by Eleanor Dickinson
7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20
COMMA Gallery
Free; 407-376-1400

Simple, striking drawings by Eleanor Dickinson are the standout in a rush of activities planned by the Florida Chapter of the Women's Caucus for Art. We'll try to break it down for better assimilation.

First, storied artist Eleanor Dickinson of San Francisco honors our town when she arrives to accompany her exhibit of drawings at COMMA Gallery. The chosen works were taken from California's Pinnacle Museum exhibition and the University of Tennessee Downtown Knoxville Gallery. For some perspective, consider that a half-century ago, Dickinson and local legend Grady Kimsey (who had a stunning show at COMMA last year) were students in the first Fine Arts graduating class at U of T. Both are extraordinary ambassadors of vision. They have led parallel lives (both became art professors) and have not slowed down, even after official retirement. Expect the gallery to be mobbed for her Sept. 20 gallery talk; get there early to claim your space. The show continues through Oct. 5.

The night before the talk, Dickinson helps to celebrate the second annual WCA banquet at Steak in the City in Altamonte Springs (6:30 p.m. Wednesday; $29; 407-921-8999 and 407-977-7652). Special speaker that night is Kristin Congdon, a professor of art and philosophy at UCF, who discusses "Feminism and Art Today: Personal Reflections on the Effects of the Women's Movement." Networking, anyone?


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