One of the things I have loved since I was a small child is the musical. I loved all things MGM – Easter Parade, Grease, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and, my absolute favourite, Meet Me In St Louis. In fact, my Mum put it on for Grace last week when we were staying with her over half term. As I grew up I loved the West End and I’ve seen many, many musicals. My first was when I went on a school trip to see Starlight Express and since then I’ve seen Les Miserables (with Frances Ruffelle playing Eponine) , Wicked (with Idina Menzel as Elphaba) and, because I am a BIG Tim Minchin fan, I have also seen Matilda twice. So, you can probably imagine my total and utter excitement at being given the chance to take the 3 of us to see the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Ross and I decided to keep it a surprise from Grace so when she was elsewhere on Tuesday and I was out with my Mum, I bought one of the new Wonka chocolate bars and some gold wrapping paper and, when we got back, I made a golden ticket which I carefully placed inside the chocolate wrapper – I was so relieved to see it didn’t even look like it had been opened.
The next day we drove to Kew Gardens, parked and took the tube to Covent Garden. On arrival we decided to take the stairs out of the tube station. Now I don’t know if you have ever walked up the steps from this station but there are 193 of the blooming things equivalent to a 15 story building!
We had a browse around Covent Garden and, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the now familiar pink and purple sign with gold writing. We decided to sit in the square and order a coffee with the motive to surprise Grace with her chocolate bar. We managed to take a small video of the event.
I don’t think I had realised how perceptive my daughter has become. She said that she had spotted the pink and purple sign when we had arrived and that she did wonder if that was where we were going!
We got to the Theatre 15 minutes before the show was due to commence. I collected our tickets and, whilst Ross popped outside to make a business call, I told Grace that she could spend her pocket money. She asked very nicely for one of the fluffy squirrels – unlike Veruca Salt in the book/musical – and, with that Rosie the squirrel joined us for the show!
We took our sits in the third row of the Royal Circle, one of which was an aisle seat which is always a necessity for Ross, and the show began. Cleverly, it opened with a cartoon drawn by Quentin Blake with an amusing take on how chocolate was made from the cacao bean. Then, the live show came to life. The set was breathtaking as it appeared before our eyes. Charlie Bucket was the first principal to make an appearance. In this performance Jack Costello was our Charlie, and what a performance it was. At first, I found him slightly garbled with his singing but I can only put this down to initial nerves as that young man stunned me into how well he coped with that role, a role where he is on stage for around 90% of the show. This is a task any adult actor would find a challenge but young Jack certainly rose to the occasion. You really rooted for him.
The set turned from rubbish dump into the Buckets home where we were treated to a brilliant song from Grandpa George (Billy Boyle), Grandma Georgina (Michelle Bishop who was replacing Myra Sands), Grandma Josephine (Roni Page who had the most beautiful singing voice) and the wonderful Nigel Planer playing the lovable Grandpa Joe. I loved the staging of this and in particular the innovative way they used the grandparents bed. The manner in which they told the story of the Maharaja and his chocolate palace was lovely using shadow drawings.
Charlie’s parents were ably played by Alex Clatworthy and Jack Shalloo. They gave such convincing performances as people who wanted the best for their son and did what they could to teach him the right values.
The staging for the introduction of Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Mike Teavee was extremely clever and each character had their own scene which told the audience exactly what kind of child they were. I found India Ria Amarteifio as Violet rather difficult to understand in her performance as her singing was a little rushed. I also felt similar about Tia Noakes playing Veruca and, whilst I know that Veruca is supposed to be extremely annoying, I found that she overplayed this a little, but that said, both girls gave admirable performances. Harrison Slater as Augustus and Jay Heyman as Mike were great and really gave us believable characters. I particularly enjoyed Jay’s ‘hyper’ performance.
Clive Carter was a fabulous Mr Salt and Mrs Gloop (Jasna Ivir), Mr Beauregarde (Paul J Medford) and Mrs Teavee (Kate Graham replacing Iris Roberts) were all wonderful in their respective roles.
The supporting cast and Oompa-Loompas were superb. I loved the clever way in which they portrayed and the Oompa-Loompas, which I found much of the staging for absolutely hilarious! Look out for the squirrels in particular!
My absolute favourite performance of the afternoon has to be Douglas Hodge”s interpretation of Willy Wonka. His performance was everything I ever believed and imagined Wonka should be. I abhorred Johnny Depp’s rendition of him. Gene Wilder, whilst he was lovely, wasn’t a patch on Hodge who had exactly the right amount of mystery surrounding him coupled with the annoyance he needed as a result of the spoilt children and the quiet determination of rooting for Charlie.
As you would expect from any Oscar-winning Director, Sam Mendes has done Roald Dahl proud as has Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman for their music and lyrics. Peter Darling , who also choreographed Matilda, has utilised the space well and our particular favourite number was Vidiots! One of the best choreographed dances I’ve seen on stage. Mark Thompson has given us colourful costumes and a clever set full of wonderful surprises.
This show has stayed true to the book. If you are going there to see the Tim Burton vision then you will be sorely disappointed. Did I already say I abhorred that version?! The music and lyrics are all new bar one song. My favourite from the original film, ‘Pure Imagination’ – a beautiful rendition performed by Charlie and Wonka. Cue more tears. And, whilst I loved the original film and watched it many times with Grace when she was younger, this version is now my firm favourite.
I absolutely loved this show. Ross said it was the musical he has enjoyed the most. Grace said ‘Awesome. That is all!’. I shall be getting the soundtrack at some point and reliving it all over again and in the words of Wonka:
With many thanks to Craig and all the scrumdiddlyumptious people at Warner Brothers for providing us with tickets to see the show.
I’m linking this post to this week’s Magic Moments over with The Olivers Madhouse