The hottest new musical in the West End is without a doubt Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at The Theatre Royal Dury Lane. Since it opened it has been on the receiving end of many mixed reviews, some reviewers love it; others not so much.
I was lucky enough to be taken to see the musical so I could make up my own judgements. I have to say I can see why it is a mixed bag of reviews, I’ll explain below:
Firstly the set and the theatre craft of the whole show is fantastic, it really is breath-taking. I went with 4 Chinese students all aged 12, and despite their severe jetlag they were sat throughout the performance with their chins to their chests, gobsmacked by how spectacular the whole performance was. From the opening of the show where Charlie is drooling over the chocolate that he can’t afford to buy to the Bucket’s house which is entirely constructed from old junk- bicycles, bits of scrap metal, old toys. To when the children enter the chocolate factory, and the whole stage becomes awash with colour and in turn the audience’s sit up straight in their seats and the musical really gets started!
The acting on the whole is wonderful, but the pint sized actors who are all under the age of 14 really do steal the show. Charlie Bucket is sweet, innocent and full of wonder, whereas in contract the nasty Verucca Salt is over the top, hyperbolic and completely juxtaposes the quiet and understated performance from the young actor playing Master Bucket. Mike Teevee was the perfect representation of what the media want you to believe 10 year olds boys to be; obsessed with TV and violence, his punchy, street dance moves really help to show off this nasty undertone in his character. Augustus Gloop is hilarious, he has fantastic chemistry with his over-protective Mother and he is exactly as you’d imagine he would be from reading the book. However, Violet Beauregarde really does steal the show, she’s the epitome of a stage child and her sassy character is spot on!! The best thing about all of these children’s performances is that they are so far removed from the characters you see in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory films that it is clear months have been spent on building these characters.
The music in the show was the one thing that let the musical down, and given that it is a musical, this is pretty imperative to my overall opinion on the show. I think that the problem with the music is that it is dated, it’s the complete opposite the other Roald Dahls West End hit Matilda, where the music is modern, fun, punchy and stands out as exciting and catchy for both adults and children. It’s a big shame that the music isn’t on a par with Matilda, however Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the perfect show for families and it’s bright colours, brilliant design and well known story make it the perfect show as an introduction to theatre.