When asking my six year old brother about the story of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, the first thing mentioned was that Charlie finds a golden ticket and heads off to Mr Wonka’s factory. It perhaps could be seen as a bit of a blunder then, that Charlie doesn’t actually reach the factory until act two.
Act one focuses on Charlie’s family and the other children finding the tickets, during which my young companion seemed to be somewhat fidgety, and understandably so. The clue is in the title – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Obviously the most exciting part of the story takes place in the factory, and I would have liked to see the factory antics begin sooner in the show to keep excitement at the maximum level. It was perhaps unnecessary to give each child a song when they found their tickets, especially as the format for these songs were largely similar each time. There was a television on stage behind which the children appeared telling the tale about how they found their ticket which became very repetitive after the second and third times – I would have preferred to see how the children got their tickets in one song, rather than four!
I am a firm believer that the most important thing in a musical is the music, and Charlie’s score was somewhat underwhelming. Written by Hairspray composers Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, the score explores every single musical chiché in the book. I wasn’t really excited by any of the songs – they seemed like they were trying to get somewhere but falling short, and I definitely didn’t feel the need to rush home to listen to the cast recording. However, I did enjoy how the children each had a defined style (Mike Teavee had an electro/dance style, Violet had a soul/funk feel and so on).
When Charlie does eventually reach the factory, it seems to become an entirely different show. Upon returning from the interval Wonka appears in the orchestra pit conducting the musicians, a lovely touch that engaged the audience from the start. The staging is engaging and vibrant and the excitement floods back into the show to full effect. There is an element of magic when watching the show and the special effects are executed brilliantly. Perhaps the show uses the theory that if you leave on a high you’ll forget that you were bored to start with!
This is by no means a bad show, but it is equally nothing to be particularly excited about. I was happy to see it once but definitely wouldn’t be in any rush to go again. Though I am sure I’m not the show’s target audience, it is the parents and relatives that take their children to the theatre and I would hope that the show would include some fun for them too – brilliant examples of this are already on the West End in the likes of Matilda and the Lion King.