Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Theatre Royal, London

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Rating: 3/5

I don’t know whether I’ve just been spoilt by the musicals I’ve seen in the last few months – Matilda, The Book of Mormon – but for me, this new adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved book didn’t quite hit the spot.

The acting was solid, particularly from the adult cast, and there was some excellent work from the child cast – my personal favourite was Violet Beauregard, AKA the “Double Bubble Duchess”. However, a lot of this was lost due to a combination of VERY up-tempo songs and terrible diction. Whilst I’m sure the lyrics here were excellent, it was impossible to appreciate them and this was a real shame. It also meant that it was difficult to connect with the five golden ticket holders [sure, most of them aren’t meant to be liked, but it still would have been nice to know the particulars of why we were disliking them] because there was no chance of understanding their central character songs.

The pace overall was quite slow, and I was surprised to discover that we had only just arrived at the factory by the end of the first half. The first half could have been much snappier, particularly the large amount of time spent introducing us to the Bucket family. More could have been made of the Grandparents, who used what material they had to great comic effect, whilst the song “If your mother were here” was completely redundant.

 

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Photo by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

The second half , however, was generally much better, with some excellent use of staging and great musical numbers from the Oompa-Loompas, who were cleverly managed throughout. A particular favourite moment of mine was the clever reference to The Nutcracker as Veruca Salt met her nutty demise – but I won’t spoil the surprise any further by describing it.

However, the inclusion of ‘Pure Imagination‘ towards the end of the show smacked of gimmick, and I wonder whether this was included to try and remind audiences of their affection for the original film adaptation, and sweeten (no pun intended) their opinions of this new version. In any case, it was certainly the most memorable song of the whole show.

Overall, I just felt that it didn’t have the heart or depth of other Dahl adaptations – when compared to Tim Minchin’s dark and very witty adaptation of Matilda or Henry Selick’s 1996 film version of James and the Giant Peach, it just doesn’t come close.

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