Every year, my parents go to London for a couple of days, to visit and for work, and every year they go to see a show. I recommended The Book of Mormon to them, which they ended up going to see, but my mother still went and ask the TKTS guy what they should see too. He warmly recommended Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and my mother told me about it so I decided to get a ticket to see what all the fuss was about. I kind of regretted buying that ticket when I arrived in the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and later on when I was watching the show.
It’s not bad, don’t get me wrong, but this is definitely the worst theater experience I’ve ever had. It was mostly linked with my surroundings more than because of the musical, even if it played a part in making me feel so utterly annoyed by the end. You need to understand that Charlie & the Chocolate Factory is a kids show, and I went to the 2PM Saturday performance. Let me tell you that it’s the worst idea ever. There were just too many children for me to enjoy anything. I’ll explain: They scream, kick the seat, play with the wrapping of their candy, ask their moms what’s happening etc… Plus I was badly seated, as I bought the cheapest ticket, and I was first row at a place where part of the stage curves out, so I had no space for my legs, it was horrible. The first thing I did when I got out of the theater was to set a reminder saying “Never go to a kid-friendly show on a weekend.”
But let’s talk about the musical itself. There are really good elements and bits but the whole is poorly balanced. First thing first, the set is CRAZY! It’s so impressive, like nothing I’ve ever witnessed before. From the enormous TV stage, to the factory grass set and the factory squirrels, and most of all the glass elevator that raises above the audience. It’s beautiful, and probably why I wasn’t too disappointed when I got out. As for the first act, it was way too slow, the songs are all at a slow pace and I was just bored, except for the little bits in the huge TV including a stage announcing the winners of the golden tickets. Act two was way better, as you are finally in the factory and everything is pumped with more energy. Special mention to the Mike Teavee song because that was so great! However there isn’t a standout song for me. It’s actually quite plain and nothing stuck in my head afterwards.
The ensemble was great, there is no problem on this level. The kids have amazing energy and they are all amazing singers, so that was a very good point. Plus I was so happy to witness the genius Alex Jennings as Willy Wonka, he had crazy charisma and really carried out the show, a truly amazing actor. Josefina Gabrielle was also part of the cast, as the mother of Mike Teavee and she is such a beautiful performer! For such a big production (Director Sam Mendes also directed this show), the casting is truly all-star.
I don’t know if it’s the condition I saw it in or the fact that I wasn’t all that excited throughout the show, but Charlie & the Chocolate Factory simply didn’t convince me. However, I get why so many people are enchanted by this universe and what they created on stage. I’d say that if you want to be in a quiet theatre with no kids around, don’t go (or buy tickets for the top balcony), but other than that it’s still great entertainment for all families.