Growing up, I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I loved the book. I loved both films (although I have more love for the original). And so when the stage show began I was a little apprehensive. It hadn’t been long since I’d seen Matilda, which was so incredible I didn’t want to risk seeing a Roald Dahl show which just didn’t quite live up to expectations…
However, my parents and sister went to see it, and I got a bit jealous hearing them going on about how much they’d loved it. So I booked my seat.
Let me start with what I enjoyed. The show is incredibly true to the book. The visual effects are fantastic. The set is stunning.
The characters were larger than life, just as in Dahl’s stories, and the five children in particular carried this off very well. I had a soft spot for Verruca Salt, because she’s always been my favourite, horrible child. The story is the one we know and love, with no attempt to embellish or alter. This I was happy with, as I’d have been a bit heartbroken to have the story altered. I know some stage adaptations do vary slightly, and it works well, but this was one story I didn’t want to be touched. The overall feel of the show was as if you were watching the book come to life, which is exactly what the show needed.
The visual effects were great, and I’m sure it was no mean feat figuring out how to do it all! Mike TV did shrink, the glass elevator did fly, and even little Charlie’s letter to Wonka flew away above the audience.
The set was brilliant. The Buckets’ house filled the stage, complete with huge double bed for the grandparents, and featured a little bedroom for Charlie at the top of the stairs. Wonka’s factory rooms cleverly occupied the stages within seconds when needed, and the edible room with the river of chocolate was intricately designed. I particularly liked the use of the ‘television screen’ box for the segments about each of the children as they discovered their golden tickets.
So why do I sound a little, well, underwhelmed?
After all, have I not just listed lots of things that impressed me?
Well, yes. But I still left feeling a little flat.
And this is in no way down to the actors; the acting and singing was great.
Nor was it down to the set; the stage looked incredible.
Nor was it down to the telling of the story; it was the story we all know and love.
What let me down was the musical. The musical as a whole.
Because I felt like it was a fantastic SHOW. But NOT a fantastic musical.
Had it been a straight play, I think I would have raved along with everyone else.
But as a musical?
Put it this way: there was no stand-out song.
I’m sure plenty of people will disagree, but for me personally none of the stand-out moments were anything to do with the music.
And that’s surely one of the biggest components of a musical?
I couldn’t name any of the songs.
I didn’t come away with any songs repeating in my head.
And for me, that’s the true fun of a musical, when every element pulls together, seamlessly linked by a fantastic soundtrack.
Without that fantastic soundtrack, I just can’t rank Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a show I loved.
I liked it. But I didn’t love it.
I’d love to know what you thought?