Willy Wonka: A chock-a-block and wonkaful time

Feeling like I had won a golden ticket myself when going to the Theatre Royal to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” I had high expectations and was hungry for a good show.

Feeling like I had won a golden ticket myself when going to the Theatre Royal to see “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” I had high expectations and was hungry for a good show. Whilst I was not disappointed by the incredible acting and the imagination that went into the set, I wasn’t blown away by the endless songs that somehow blended into one another and was only really enthralled in the second half when Willy Wonka (played by Douglas Hodge) really compelled the audience.

A gobstopper of a show

There’s no doubt that the show is worth seeing, there were aspects which were truly breath taking and the entire audience was mesmerised at one point or another, whether it be when Augustus Gloop was being sucked up by a transparent tube, or Violet turning into a large blueberry or Mike Teeavee disappearing and then reappearing in a TV screen.

The actors who played the other four winners of the golden tickets (Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Mike Teavee) were exceptional and their individual character songs were especially memorable. In particular, Veruca’s request to her father to buy North Korea now that she had a golden ticket and Violet’s posse of backing dancers were comical and her attitude was somewhat reminiscent of Willow Smith.

However, it was only after the interval when I became truly hooked and it seemed everyone was transported into the chocolate factory because Douglas Hodge’s portrayal of Willy Wonka was spectacular. His humorous performance, touching rendition of “Pure Imagination” and ability to appear hilarious and fun loving but also slightly mad pulled the show together, and his last few scenes with just Charlie were the best of the show.

Too much of a good thing

However, the show as a whole seemed to missing an unnameable key ingredient, made up by too many songs and not enough Wonka.

I’m sure at this point many people will be adamantly protesting that I knowingly went to watch a musical and so surely songs are, of course, an integral part of musicals, what was I expecting? The problem is, whilst songs are such a crucial element of musicals, they need not be used so often that they become tedious. Every song needs to be somewhat memorable and not blend into another. If you leave the theatre humming your new favourite song or even songs, then the songs have been as magical as they should have been.

The lack of Wonka in the first half meant the first half was by far less compelling than the second. Whilst I admit that the storyline requires Wonka to really make his appearance after the interval, the pace before the interval was a little sluggish although Charlie’s impoverished family is very touching, especially when Charlie’s yearning for a golden ticket is evident when he realises he has not won one in his birthday chocolate bar.

Four stars, not five

The stage was alight with colours after the interval and there is no doubt that children will be ensuring the theatre is chock-a-block (pun intended) with people for the foreseeable future. Whilst I would recommend it, it was not the best musical I have ever seen, although I’ll admit the Wonka chocolate bars being sold were the best I’ve eaten (despite the fact that mine didn’t have a golden ticket…now that was the real disappointment).

Overall, I won’t be crying with the Jelly Babies but equally I won’t be raving about it as a golden performance, meaning it’s a four out of five stars from me. 

What do you think of the performance? Were you there? Have your say in the comments section below.