BWW Review: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY at Her Majesty's Theatre
Roald Dahl's classic children's book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory has arrived in Melbourne in a new musical that will leave your children craving confectionery and feeling Scrumdiddlyumptious!
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory - The New Musical is a familiar classic tale for both adults and children alike. This is not only due to Roald Dahl's extremely successful novel, but also thanks to the well known 1971 film adaption renamed Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, staring Gene Wilder as the iconic chocolatier and another film remake in 2005, under the original novel name, starring Johnny Depp.
Charlie's adventures through The Chocolate Factory will mesmerize younger audience members and the modernisations in this musical adaptation make it easy for them to relate to it. Adult audience members are more likely to leave with a stomach ache that is not so sweet. Unfortunately this production does not come close to having the heart or emotional depth compared to the musical adaption of one of Dahl's other works.
David Greig's book is however excellent and does create an intellectually layered comic text that allows both children and adults to have a few chuckles. Scenes in the second act in particular are exceptionally funny.
What really lets this show down is the lack of scenic design. It is apparent that this version of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory features a watered down set compared to the splendour of the original West End spectacle. A heavier focus on the use of video and projections, designed by Jeff Sugg make Willy Wonker's Chocolate Factory Wonderland feel more like a series of classroom projections then a live action reimagining. The exception to this is in the famous Mike Teavee shrinking scene when this technology does work well.
The new music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman, with additional lyrics by Scott Wittman really miss the mark in this score and only shine when we are introduced to the other four obnoxious golden ticket winners and their dysfunctional parents. Their work is overshadowed by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley's classical songs "The Candy Man", "I've Got A Golden Ticket" and "Pure Imagination" from the 1971 motion picture, which thankfully make a welcome appearance in this adaptation.
The updated direction by Jack O'Brien also features some unusual choices. The decision to give Charlie and his family Australian accents but keep Willy Wonker with an American accent, make it unclear what continent the factory is set on. As well the comic styles chosen change from wholesome family comedy to black comedy where naughty disobedient children are blown up. While both style choices do work, the constant stylistic changes seem jarring.
What really saves this production is its cast and slick, comic choreography by Joshua Bergasse.
Paul Slade Smith leads the cast as Willy Wonka. While he doesn't quite manage to fill the shoes of Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp's legacy, he does shine in the second act. Tony Sheldon as Grandpa Joe creates a strong and memorable performance and his interpretation of "I've Got A Golden Ticket " is a highlight. Lucy Maunder's performance as the hard working single mother Mrs Bucket is sincere and honest. Her blissful tones are a pleasure to listen to.
Jake Fehily as Augustus Gloop and Octavia Barron Martin as his mother Mrs Gloop are a highlight of the show and absolutely hilarious. Jayme-Lee Hanekom belts some impressive tunes as Violet Beauregard and Karina Russell dances her way to death as the Russian ballerina Veruca Salt.
Harrison Riley as Mike Teavee and Jayde Westaby as Mrs Teavee each give great contrasting performances as a mother stuck in the 1950's and a son consumed by 21st century technology. The mini Oompa Lumpur's played by the ensemble cast provide lots of laughter.
The real star of this performance was twelve year old Lenny Thomas as Charlie Bucket. He exudes his character's confectionery enthusiasm and is a delight to watch. Lenny shares the rule with Benjamin Belsey, Edgar Stirling, Lachlan Young and Elijah Slavinskis.
Roald Dahl's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory - The New Musical provides a wonderful opportunity for the next generation of children to discover and enjoy this classic story.
Currently playing at Her Majesty's Theatre to 3rd November, visit charliethemusical.com.au for more information or to book tickets.