BWW Review: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY at The Hippodrome Delivers a World of Pure Imagination
As the Candy Man himself said, "come with me, and you'll see a world of pure imagination." It seems the writers and creatives behind CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY playing at the Hippodrome took this phrase to heart. On the basis of pure creativity and theatre magic, this show is a hit for young and old. These days, it's fun to have at least a singular moment of "I don't know how they managed to do that", however in this show particularly from the magic of a soaring paper airplane, to a child gobbled into a television set, there are many of these moments of amazement. And I'm sure the numerous children in the audience were completely taken by the sheer wonder of it.
Of course, none of this magic would mean anything without a fabulous Wonka at the center of the story, and in Noah Weisberg they have found that perfect mix of funny and a little bit off his rocker. Weisberg is having the time of his life creating a snarky Wonka, that is still in awe of owning his very own Chocolate Factory. As manic as Wonka is, Rueby Wood as Charlie Bucket is just as quietly charming and earnest. Wood's constant state of wonder mirrors his mentor Wonka.
Wood allows Charlie's imagination shine. As Charlie's other mentor in dreaming, James Young playing Grandpa Joe is entertaining. He's instantly likeable as the bed-bound storyteller, but really hits his stride as he and Charlie finally receive their golden ticket.
Amanda Rose, playing Mrs. Bucket; Charlie's mother deserves recognition as well. Her performance brings heart to the Bucket family, and displays just how deserving Charlie is in this land of spoiled children. Her solo performance of "If Your Father Were Here", is a highlight. She grounds the somewhat fantasy-heavy show. It's sad she isn't given a bit more to do after that solo. It would have been nice to see Charlie's family react to the big twist at the end.
These outstanding performances are only enhanced by the theatre magic that created Wonka's wild world. The set and costume designs by Mark Thompson are surreal technicolor marvels, full of tiny details that are fun to spot throughout the show. And without spoiling the enjoyment of their big reveal, I must say the Oompa Loompas are a riot and their design is hilariously perfect! Seeing the production is worth it, just to see these little guys. The designs create a spectacle that is perfectly geared toward the many children in the audience.
One note, that is more to do with the original source material than this production. As anyone who has read Dahl's stories knows, he was often dark in his writing - not terribly scary, just a bit morbid. This production highlights those often-odd scenarios in ways that may be slightly frightening to a younger audience. While most of the children I saw left with very happy faces, the 4-5 year old that sat next to me, was scared by a few of the plotlines taking place in Wonka's lab.
As most fans of Roald Dahl and the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie, I was skeptical that a staged version of the story would work well. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the creativity and ingenuity the show brings to the theatre. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY delivers the classic stories of Dahl into the 21st century uniting those that read the originals and their children and grandchildren in delight.
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY plays the Hippodrome through January 27, 2019.