Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Since I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the eve of its London opening in June 2013, the show has undergone radical surgery with eight songs cut and more songs from the 1971 movie included. This is a good thing, and with all the winners who have the ‘Golden Ticket’ now played by adults instead of children, a much streamlined set, and washing the stage with video images, this ride into ‘Oompa Loompa’ land is most enjoyable.
Stephen Anderson is a lithe and appealing Willy Wonka, who can hold the stage on his own, sing agreeably and execute dance moves with style. Opposite him as Charlie Bucket, Flynn Nolan (in a role shared on other nights by Phineaus Knickerbocker, Cooper Mathews and Edgar Stirling) showed clever song-and-dance chops, and brought some tender moments of heart to the character. They were a great double act.
Robert Grubb as Grandpa Joe was an irascible old oddball with a heart of gold, whilst Lucy Maunder as Charlie’s mum, Mrs Bucket, had ‘buckets’ of warmth. Johanna Allen owned the stage as Mrs Teavee and almost stopped the show with ‘That Little Man of Mine’, a new number added for the U.S. tour. Octavia Barron Martin (Mrs Gloop) and Jaxon Graham Wilson (Augustus Gloop) were audience favorites, especially in the German sausage send-up, Karina Russell, was fun as the spiteful Veruca Salt, and Euan Doidge’s funny cameo as Mrs Green hit the spot at every appearance.
The audience also loved the ‘Oompa Loompas’ who could do no wrong with their snazzy routines, and were enthusiastically embraced, especially leading the bows at the end with the curtain half-raised al-la 42nd Street (A good show-biz gimmick never goes out of fashion).
The sets were eye-poppingly colorful, as were the costumes, and the video images were top-of-the-range. David Piper’s pit-band made Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s score sound like it was better than it was, but ultimately the tunes you remembered walking out of the theatre were the Bricusse and Newley standards, ‘Pure Imagination’ and ‘The Candy Man’.
It’s family entertainment and it hits the button every time.
Photographer: Darren Thomas.