Roald Dahl fans in our house one and all, our interest was aroused when we first heard about the West End’s new biggie – Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Not too sure what the great man would have made of the Sam Mendes creation at the Theatre Royal in London but we loved it. Massive sets and amazing special effects we thoroughly enjoyed this new adaptation of the much loved classic.
Son was presented with his golden ticket on Christmas morning and was beyond delighted with this unexpected Christmas present. I was beyond delighted with a post Christmas weekend in London. Not so difficult to get tickets too, we only started looking in November and managed to find great seats for an evening performance mid January. Not cheap but no surprise for a top show in the West End. Speaking of which I was so impressed with the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane – stunningly beautiful inside and out, there are ornate staircases, artwork on the walls and a feeling you are somewhere special.
The show is not a replication of the movies and puts a different twist on the story. I found that refreshing. The budget was of the multi-million pound variety and it shows – massive sets and amazing special effects together with tons of gadgets, a bright sugar candy landscape and a true feast for the eyes. We started our evening with a Wonka bar – delicious – and settled in to watch the show. Enthralled, I don’t think any of us were able to tear our eyes from the stage for even a second.
Charlie appeared rummaging through an enormous pile of rubbish and the whole of the first half was centered around his corrugated tin house. The grandparents were in bed and did some nifty routines without setting foot on the stage. Some reviews criticised the first half as being too long and too dull. I didn’t agree. Charlie’s impoverised family on their cabbage soup diet and lack of belongings was touching, a bit Dickens like and the greyness of the stage set made it very atmospheric. There was a wonderful scene where Charlie writes a letter to Wonka, makes it into a paper dart and then throws it into the audience. We watched the dart fly above our heads into the gods – such a simple trick but so effective. One of my favourite parts in the first act was the use of the giant television hovering over the main stage in glorious technicolour to introduce the other children. A bright flash contrasting sharply with the greyness of Charlie’s house.
You don’t enter Wonka’s factory until the second half. We all loved Willy – extremely charismatic, a bit disconcerting and very memorable he stole the show. The sets were stunning and watching the unpleasant children meet their sticky ends in various ways was clever and gripping. Great details everywhere and the killer squirrels and Oompa Loompa’s were spectacular. The show’s climax involved a great glass elevator and all too soon it was the end with Charlie taking over Wonka’s factory.
I wasn’t so keen on the new music – not so memorable and the only tune running through my head was Pure Imagination – the most memorable and the only one used from the original movie. Perhaps though with time and familiarity the other songs would grow on you. There were quite a few children in the audience but a remarkable number of adults without kids proving this show is family friendly but appeals to everyone. Spectacularly entertaining I’m sure this will become a West End classic. Son’s only disappointment and negative about the whole thing was that we weren’t able to go back and see it again the next night. Praise indeed.