Worth The Hype? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

There are usually three reasons I'm late to seeing a show: I don't feel a yearning to see the show, I was busy when the show first opened so it slipped off my radar or (in this case), the price tag on a ticket is so ridiculously expensive that I've had to wait for a weekday matinee in term time to come around to get a fairly priced ticket. And yes, it really has taken me the two years since this show first opened for a day like that to arrive.

I wish I could spend this blog post gushing about how amazing this show was and how it really was worth the wait, but I feel like that gushing has to be limited to the set design alone. I don't think I have ever seen such ambitious set design come to life so incredibly well on a stage before in my life; this show manages to cover absolutely every staging trick you think it's going to pull off. People dancing and singing in scenes that take place inside a giant TV? Yep. Violet turning into a blueberry and spinning around during a disco-esque musical number? Oh yes. And Charlie and Willy Wonka flying into the audience in a glass elevator without a single string in sight? You bet ya. But other than the marvelous set design and execution that is carried out in that theatre eight nights a week, I can't help but feel like this is much more of a kid's entertainment experience as opposed to a musical.

With most musicals, I feel compelled by the story and moved by the showstopping musical numbers that stand out to me, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was none of those things. I don't know what quite went wrong on this part; the songwriting duo Shaiman and Wittman worked on modern classics like Hairspray so I can't really blame the songwriting duo all too much, and I certainly can't blame the cast because despite some dodgy singing from certain performers every now and then, I remained compelled by their characters throughout the show. I suppose the main things I'd have to point out as dulling this show down for me were both the random moments in the story that were musicalised and the fact that we only got to see one plot line run throughout the entire show (let's not even touch on how we spent the entirety of the first Act building up to meeting Willy Wonka and going into the factory). Without these added subplots to make the show interesting and with these random musicalised moments in the story (the opening to Act Two is a song called "Strike That, Reverse It" - a song I wasn't fond of on the cast album and was even less fond of when I saw the sheer randomness performed in the show) I think I might have left the theatre feeling much more positive about it than I actually did; I feel like the show has been simplified for a younger audience which is fantastic when I looked around the theatre and saw the demographic, but it's no good to the parents of those children and the regular theatregoers who are there to see a musical version of a classic tale they once loved, not a child's pantomime.

I didn't hate Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by any stretch of the imagination and some incredible moments with set and choreography had me both laughing and with goosebumps at how awe-inspiring it was, but all-in-all, this show wasn't anything more than mediocre; I felt like I was taking the average age of those under 18 up to much higher proportions. If you're looking for a show to take the kids to in hope of a fun day out then you will be delighted with the impression this show will leave on them, but if you considering going for a fun night out at the theatre with some friends like I do oh so regularly, I'd pass on this one.

No comments