How Two-Time Tony Winner Christian Borle Discovered His Own Versatility

Special Features   How Two-Time Tony Winner Christian Borle Discovered His Own Versatility Borle takes us inside his creative genius as he pivots from the emotional Falsettos to the fantastical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Charlie_and_the_Chocolate_Factory_Production_Photo_2017_2 [1501]_Jake Ryan Flynn, Christian Borle in ROALD DAHL'S CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Photos by Joan Marcus 2017_HR.jpg
Jake Ryan Flynn and Christian Borle Joan Marcus

“Senior year of college, I wanted to be the Emcee in Cabaret, and I didn’t get it and instead I was the gorilla, and the kiss couple, and the head waiter, and all these amazing parts,” says two-time Tony Award winner Christian Borle. “The opportunity to play a bunch of different parts in one show is just as thrilling to be given the opportunity to play one person in one season.” So imagine how thrilled Borle feels to play two principals in one season.

After a successful run leading the fall revival of Falsettos as Marvin (a man who leaves his wife and son for another man), Borle slips into purple tails and a top hat to originate the role of master chocolatier Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, now playing the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.

Charlie_and_the_Chocolate_Factory_Production_Photo_2017_5 [2022]_John Rubinstein, Ben Crawford, Emma Pfaeffle, Jake Ryan Flynn, Christian Borle, etc. in ROALD DAHL'S CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Photo by Joan Marcus_HR.jpg
John Rubinstein, Ben Crawford, Emma Pfaeffle, Jake Ryan Flynn, Christian Borle, Trista Dollison, Alan H. Green, Jackie Hoffman, and Michael Wartella Joan Marcus

“The sweetest thing about this season,” says Borle, “has been the balance of the tone of the material and what’s required for something like Falsettos, and then the expectation of what Willy Wonka should be.

“Variety is fantastic,” he grins. “It’s my favorite thing.” From romantic leads like Thoroughly Modern Millie’s Jimmy and Legally Blonde’s underdog Emmett to Tony-winning turns as Peter and the Starcatcher’s out-ra-geous Black Stache and Something Rotten!’s hubristic Shakespeare, if there’s anyone who could play both Marvin and Wonka—let alone in the same season—it’s Borle.

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In fact, Black Stache marked a turning point in Borle’s career. “Actors, myself included, are such insecure, self-effacing, self-deprecating beings,” he admits. “But there was something about the collaborating of Peter and the Starcatcher and the creating over the course of years and being trusted. … Peter was the first experience I had where we got it to the point where everything landed.”

Borle’s success in the role first unearthed his gift for versatility, which relies on his ability to relate to his characters. “The trick with Willy Wonka has been finding how close he is to me,” says Borle, “and he’s closer than I expected, actually.

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“We’re finding ways to hopefully humanize him right out of the gate,” says Borle. Though his Wonka feels more grounded than other portrayals, he’s still a dreamer. In that way, Borle feels completely in tune with Wonka. “It’s very easy to translate the fun and excitement I feel just getting to be onstage and the glee that Willy Wonka feels at having his amazing factory,” he says. “The theatre continues to be the most amazing place to get to work.”

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