Let me take you back to 2013 when this musical first appeared at the Theatre Royal, Drury lane. Roald Dahl story of – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is on National Tour.
As we took to our seats, the stage resembled a junk yard, with items that would be later collected by Charlie (Noah Walton) for his family members. The back of the stage acts as Wonka’s Factory or a big screen in which to project various moving images to tell the story.
I have to admit, that as the plot unfolded the time ticked on and soon, I felt the uncomfortableness of the long sit and the noise of children getting uneasy, with the plot being laid out on stage. Some of the scenes in act one, did drag along a little and needed to be fired up with some energy or cut totally! I did feel for parents with their children as it was a long sit, with limited action on stage. The music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman are certainly enjoyable to hear at the time – but nothing was hummed as I left the theatre or the following day in fact apart from pure imagination.
Noah Walton was our Charlie Bucket for the night with four other cast members that alternated the role. Noah with his red hair already looked like a minature Willy Wonka and open the show with ‘Almost Nearly Perfect’. Noah Walton handled the amount of dialogue with absolute ease and was a natural for me. He was also signing along with his Mum (Leonie Spilsbury).
As the four other golden ticket winners (Robin Simões Da Silva, Kazmin Borrer, Marisha Morgan and Teddy Hinde) were announced, we had to have newscasters telling us who had won and from where. These four were played by adult actors. Each child brought with it their own exaggerated horrible character traits and helped the childlike innocence, politeness and positiveness of Charlie shine through even more.
Willy Wonka (Gareth Snook) gives a perfectly bonkers performance. Sarcastic and altogether not really bothered one, that the kids are there or what happens to them. Lots of visual effects happen on stage and if you are sitting slightly off centre, you missed the whole experience and it looked like 4 actors bobbing about on stage. I just wish that Willy Wonka could have been a bigger presence on stage. He needed a bigger persona!
The whole show had a darker side to it. The umpa lumpas had quite scary masks on and the children’s demise was somewhat scary for your children or a lot of questions would have been asked on the way home. The set relied on a lot of projection, which would have been a nightmare if it had failed, as I fear even the cast would not be sure where to go.
For me, act one was a little slow and dull. But if did improve in act two. But! Is was too long and limited in it’s wow appeal. Shame as I was looking forward to it. I really was. The glass elevator and pure imagination was so good and for me that saved it.
The show is touring the UK.
3 stars out of 5