By Flora Norton
Brimming with boyish energy and good humour, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory offers a whimsical walk down memory lane as we are invited to join Charlie on the dangerous, dramatic and delicious adventure that we all know so well.
The musical has all the witty songs, outrageous characters and extravagant costumes expected in a production for kids, but the familiarity of the story adds a powerful touch of nostalgia that sends warm and fuzzy shivers down every spine in the theatre.
The quirky script is backed up by a phenomenal cast with 12-year-old Lenny Thomas proving powerfully that age does not detract from talent when it comes to the stage. His performance as Charlie is mesmerising, his energy contagious and his dedication to the character palpable in every scene. His on-stage relationship with Grandpa Joe (Tony Sheldon) is not only believable but endearing, funny and uplifting and does justice to their original portrayal by Dahl.
Adding to the charm of the performance is the colourful and involved set and designer Mark Thompson should be commended for his work. Colour, animation, moving parts and special effects were all elaborately tangled together to portray the bizarre and imaginative world of Wonka. Moreover, fans of the Oompa Loompa’s will not be disappointed for the singing and somewhat sadistic factory workers were a highlight of the show. Their unique physical appearance was achieved by the incorporation of some truly remarkable puppetry (Basil Twist) and their comical dance numbers will leave you in stitches.
From acrobatics to ballet, the musical showcases every one of the cast’s talents making the performance dynamic, exciting and surprising. Mike Teevee’s (Harrison Riley) slapstick miming sequence not only adds to the theme of ‘you have to believe it to see it,’ but is also flawlessly executed and desperately comical. Similarly, before she’s pulled limb from limb by some truly frightening oversized squirrels, Verruca Salt (Karina Russel) spends her last moments on stage treating us to an exquisite ballet performance.
Do not be misled though by the chocolates and sweets as this musical is not just for children. The script is littered with adult humour and writer David Greig certainly had some fun with his adaptation of Mrs Teevee. While an unremarkable character in the book, in Greig’s version the single mother is not so subtly portrayed as a raging alcoholic and her conversations with Wonka may well have some children chuckling but bring tears of mirth to every adult’s eyes.
Aside from these little quirks, the musical does not stray far from the book and the adaptation is an honest replication of the classic tale. Unlike it’s sister musical “Matilda,” Charlie and the Chocolate Factory lacks the twists and tweaks that we have grown accustomed to expect when old favourites are revisited but this does not detract from the quality of the performance. If you’re expecting the unexpected then you may be disappointed but if you’re looking for a night of nostalgia, cheerful songs and endless laughs then this show will not let you down. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory offers the perfect respite from the cold and wet – what better way to warm up that to step inside Her Majesty’s Theatre, let your imagination unravel and join Charlie on his wondrous and fantastical adventure!
Image Credit: Heidi Victoria and Jeff Busby
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.