Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A trip to London with young nephews and niece was a good excuse to see the musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s been running for over a year now and is on to at least its second cast, but it’s still packing them in and you can see why. The show is really all about the special effects, and some of them are pretty amazing. The Oompa Loompas are great, in a variety of different guises, the glass lift is magical, the stage set generally is impressively high tech and the shrinking of Mike Teavee is an absolute triumph – rapturously received at the performance I saw. Even one of the less high tech effects, the simple flying off of a paper aeroplane, is quietly impressive.
The music and the songs are a bit of a mixed bag. There was too much amplification in places, making some of the lyrics difficult to follow, and the only ones that really stuck in the memory were ‘If your mother were here’ (a duet for Charlie’s parents) and ‘Don’t ya pinch me, Charlie’, both at the end of the first Act. By then the action was beginning to drag a bit as we reached the hour mark and still hadn’t even met Willy Wonka (other than a disguised version of him posing as a tramp) or seen inside the chocolate factory.
The arrival of Alex Jennings as Willy Wonka just before the interval did liven things up though and I thought he got the character just about right, with always a hint of menace as well as of magic. And the inventiveness of the Oompa Loompa routines in the second act was marvellous and kept the action moving along much better. All the children in the audience certainly loved it and even the adults were pretty impressed.