Saturday, 14 December 2013

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


I always say that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is my favourite Roald Dahl book. Which is a cliché in itself and I am not sure how entirely true it is. It has been a very long time since I have read it, although the fact that my copy is extremely dog eared indicates that I may have read it a lot as a child. But since then, the plot of the original story, has been polluted by two very contrasting films and now this - the brand new musical.

Produced by the ever brilliant Sam Mendes, everyone was expecting a bit of a showstopper and I was not disappointed. I have to say it is a beautiful musical. That's the only way I can describe it. The sets are truly something to behold. Each room that they go into is absolutely stunning with huge scenery, daring props (that are very reliant on technology it appeared) and wonderful costumes that all made it a marvel for the eyes. It was totally gorgeous. The detail, the brightness, the lights...it was all exactly right. No other musical has been quite that big.

Another way that this musical is bigger than any other than I have seen, was by the pure breadth of what was included within it. You couldn't say that it fit one particular style because everything was there - there was rapping, electro music, street dancing, ballet, tap, funny bits, sad bits, slow bits, action filled bits...what a complete and utter rollercoaster. In the same way that the children were on a massive journey so were we and it really did keep you gripped until the end.

Talking of the children, having a cast where the majority of the leads are below 12, is always going to be a massive risk. But these kids were great. Talented, professional and true to the original characters, while at the same time, bringing their own bit of flair to each one. They were all kept dutifully in hand by a host of awesome supporting adults, with Willie Wonka at the helm, played by Douglas Hodge. His wonderfully whacky portrayal was a little more subdued than either of the films' versions, making him much more lovable, as I always felt like he should be. He played him with casual skill, making it look effortless as he bounced off the children and drew you into the world.

This was a very good portrayal that you had enthralled in a different world for a few hours...there was so much going on you didn't quite know where to look. However, I was wondering how suitable it actually was for children, despite the fact it is a children's book and has always meant to be for children. And there were a lot in the audience. But would they actually be able to keep up? Would they understand some of the events going on? And what's more, would they hear the odd swear word that crept into a couple of the songs. But for me personally, I loved the whole exciting production. And as I was the one who grew up with this book constantly on my bedside table, that is how it should be.

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