How excited was I to finally get the opportunity to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at what has to be my favourite West End Theatre thanks to the marvellous Official Theatre.
From the moment you step into the Theatre Royal Drury Lane you are reminded of chocolate mainly because the well chosen Cadbury purple is everywhere. You get the feeling that something magical is waiting to happen. As you take your seat there is excitement and expectation everywhere. The story is well known and loved and therefore people expect want to see it magically brought to life.
This is a show of two halves. The first starts with little Charlie Bucket scrimmaging round a rubbish dump looking for scraps to take home to show his bedridden Grandparents and apart from a nifty set-change from dump to cottage the show remains in ‘drab’ land throughout the act. We are introduced to the 4 naughty children which is entertaining however by the time you get to the interval and you finally meet Willy Wonka for the first time you do begin to wonder if you are ever going to discover his marvellous Chocolate Factory.
Merchandise and refreshments are outrageously priced which soured the mood a little for the second half. This is a personal rant of mine. I like to support the arts and these magnificent theatres however charging nearly £20 for a couple of glasses of wine is taking my generosity a little too far.
It is during the second act that you finally see the marvellous sets and design that have made this show so popular. Unlike the almost static first half, the scenery changes too quickly to appreciate it. It is innovative and spectacular. It all seems very rushed. You cannot appreciate the costumes, the magic and wonder of the special effects because there is too much going on.
Alex Jennings plays rather an unassuming, less scary and eccentric Willy Wonka than is portrayed in the film versions. He has a couple of songs but then is superfluous to the story as the immensely talented children each sing their way to their hilarious demise.
I was disappointed that Leslie Bricusse’s music and lyrics weren’t used from the 1971 film with Gene Wilder. They were a lot more memorable than the current ones and it was no surprise that people came out singing ‘Imagination’, the only one that was retained,
Saying all that, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory does have enough substance to recommend for a family trip to the theatre, but if you are trying to please a Roald Dahl fan then the RSC’s Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre, wins for me hands down.
I was very pleased to have been given the opportunity to go and see Charlie and the Chocolate and I thank www.officialtheatre.com for making it possible. I only have one problem now, how to tell my children that I have been. I’d best keep that little secret to myself I think.