Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Director: Sam Mendes
Writer: David Greig (book), Marc Shaiman (music and lyrics), Scott Wittman (lyrics)
Based on: Roald Dahl‘s novel
Cast: Joe Butler-Smith, Noah Crump, Johnny Evans-Hutchison, Zachary Loonie, Jonathan Slinger, Barry James
Seen on: 23.10.2015
Charlie (either Joe Butler-Smith, Noah Crump, Johnny Evans-Hutchison or Zachary Loonie) lives with his parents and two sets of grandparents in a small house in the shadow of the huge Wonka chocolate factory. The factory has been closed to people for years, although chocolate is being produced, and nobody has seen the eccentric owner Willy Wonka (Jonathan Slinger) in just as long. But then exciting news is announced: Wonka will hide five golden tickets in his chocolate bars and whoever gets them can visit the factory on a guided tour. Charlie hopes that the one chocolate bar he gets for his birthday every year will be the lucky one. But as ticket after ticket is found, his chances dwindle.
I love Roald Dahl and since we saw the charming Matilda production in London last year, I was happy to give Charlie a try as well. Unfortunately the show doesn’t quite reach the heights it could have, although it is fun, entertaining and – no pun intended – sweet.
The production has a great stage design. It’s not easy pulling off an entire chocolate factory run by Willy Wonka on stage (including nut sorting squirrels), but I thought they managed wonderfully and creatively. The show looks great and combines light and props nicely to create the many sets. I was particularly fond of the Bucket household though and the bed with all the grandparents.
It was a missed opportunity, though, that they didn’t actually cast people with dwarfism to play the Oompa Loompas. Instead they had the chorus get down on their knees or wear costumes that made them seem like two little people standing on each other to hide their size.
Another point of weakness was that I couldn’t really understand the lyrics. Either the acoustics in the theater were so bad or the sound mixing was, but they were frankly incomprehensible over long stretches. And when Mike Teevee was performing, it was literally impossible to understand anything.
Add to that that the choreographies were pretty lackluster and very oldschool, and that there is not one melody I could hum even 15 minutes after the play, and you have a play that features a good cast, a great story and could have been wonderfully weird, but somehow ends up a little meh. It’s still nice to watch, but I won’t be thinking much about it anymore.