It was announced that
Borle would be playing Wonka in Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory before Falsettos
had even opened. After a limited run, Falsettos
closed on Jan. 8, leaving Borle just enough time to escape New York City’s mild
winter for a relaxing vacation in Hawaii.
Tanned and relaxed,
the actor is ready to put his mark on the iconic character. On the first day of
rehearsals, Borle recalls the thrill of coming together for the first time with
the cast and crew. “Everyone with a stake was there,” he says, adding that he
was “blown away” by the initial presentation, which includes a book by
David Greig, music and lyrics by GRAMMY and Tony Award winners Marc Shaiman and
Scott Wittman (Hairspray, Catch Me If You
Can, Smash) and set design by Mark Thompson. “It’s highly theatrical.”
In addition to
Shaiman and Wittman’s original music, key songs from the film -- “The Candy
Man,” “(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket” and “Pure Imagination” -- will be featured
in the Broadway production, the latter of which Borle will sing just like
Wilder did. “I am trying to do it as simply as possible because the
music speaks for itself,” he says.
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While there are a lot of expectations surrounding Borle’s
performance, especially in the wake of Wilder’s death at 83 last year, the
actor says he hasn’t watched the movie in several years, hoping to come at it
with a fresh take. “I still carry [Wilder’s]
performance and his persona as a gentle giant in my subconscious,” he says.
“It’s impossible to get rid of him completely.” Borle, however, doesn’t feel any
pressure -- at least from Wilder -- in carrying out the late actor’s legacy. “If
he didn’t like it, then I think I would be crushed. And so now I can
imagine he would have liked it.”
Surprisingly, the role took Borle several years to land.
While working on NBC’s Smash, the
short-lived musical series featuring original music composed by Shaiman and
Wittman, Borle was asked by the duo to record demos for them “so other powers that
be could hear their songs.” When it was announced Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was moving from London’s West End
to Broadway, Borle jumped at the chance to star in it. “What idiot doesn’t want to play Willy Wonka if they had the chance?” he
And now that he’s two days into the part, Borle is just as
excited as ever -- even if he has some trepidation. “I have an idea of what I
am going to do, but I don’t know if it’s going to work. It’s a bit of a tight
rope walk at the moment.” And the rest
is up to pure imagination.