Last night I was lucky enough to be given tickets to go and see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – a musical of the famous Roald Dahl classic, directed by Sam Mendes, and on at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. I wasn’t sure what to expect – being somewhat of a musical snob (anyone who has asked me whether I’ve seen We Will Rock You will know this, having suffered the ensuing withering look of disdain) – but I knew that if it was only half as enjoyable as that other Roald Dahl adaptation playing around the corner, then I was sure to have a good time.
The musical suffered a bit from a lack of good, memorable, catchy tunes – and the first half, being almost entirely in the Bucket Family home, wasn’t the most inspiring start. That said, there were some great set pieces, as one by one we were introduced to the other competition winners (all the kids on stage were fantastic) – and the first act finale, where we finally met Willy Wonka for the first time (or was it?), blew us cynical thirty-somethings away with a trick of the eye that left us giggling all the way through interval drinks.
And then we went into the Factory. And that’s where the magic really happened. I don’t want to give anything away, but the sets for each of the different rooms were just spectacular, and had the audience gazing and applauding in wonder. This, coupled with a fabulous – and hilariously snarky – Willy Wonka, played magnificently by Douglas Hodge, had us coming away from the show glowing and basking in the magic that we’d seen before us. Oh and I can’t believe I’ve got this far without mentioning the Oompa Loompas!
Roald Dahl creates such a wonderful, rich, world – populated with characters that you can’t help but love, or hate (or love to hate), that it would be hard to go wrong with such perfect source material. Sam Mendes has really managed to bring the most fantastical bits to life, without losing anything from the story. I definitely recommend going to see this if you can (this probably goes ten-fold if you actually have kids – you know, the target audience). And – after reminiscing with my friends about all the great stories – I think I’m going to re-read some of the collection. Which I’m sure is a conviction uttered by adults and children alike after seeing the show. And I think that’s all part of the great legacy of Mr Dahl.
Today’s quote isn’t a quote – it’s a line from “Pure Imagination” which appears both in the original film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and this new musical.