(Picture from ellefield.blogspot.com)
The eagerly anticipated arrival of the Roald Dahl classic to the stage seemed to have engulfed the West End, and everybody in it, within recent months. How on earth would legendary director Sam Mendes possibly bring what many consider to be one of Roald Dahl’s greatest stories to life on stage? Well, it was my job to go and find out!
For the first time in a while, I found myself overcome with excitement ahead of my visit to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane – I literally couldn’t wait to get there! But it made me think about why that was! I mean every time I go and see a show – I am always excited – but with Charlie, there was something different!
Then I realised – I had no idea of what I was going to see!
Yes of course I knew the story, I knew the characters and I knew how things were going to work out in the end – but that was it! The production team over at Charlie had done a phenomenal job of ensuring that many of their show secrets – including Oompa Loompas, Squirrels, Elevators, and Chocolate Rooms amongst many others had not left the doors of the theatre, except in the minds of those lucky people who attended the previews.
Even on the day of Press Night itself, the official Twitter feed read: –
“The Chocolate Garden is preened and the Oompa Loompas are . . . well, wait and see!”
The suspense was killing me!
On arrival at the theatre, the atmosphere continued to build! Surrounded by hundreds of people – both young and old – in a sea of bright, in your face colours – and this was only the foyer! As I travelled further into the theatre, I took my seats (which were centre front row) and was greeted by a very simple image – a single chocolate bean, presented in a golden box. I was still none the wiser about what I was going to see!
What happened in the next 2 and a half hours though, was truly one of the most magical, uplifting, enchanting journeys I have ever been on! This show was definitely a case of unlocking your inner child and just enjoying the ride! Even now, four days since my visit, I still break out into a Cheshire Cat type smile every time I think about that amazing evening!
Now you may be expecting to tell you about my highlights and stand out moments from the show – right? WRONG!
For me, part of the magic of the evening was not knowing precisely what I was going to see or how these amazing visuals would be portrayed on stage. And for me to sit here now and tell you about every single moment of the show would totally ruin the joy and uplifting nature of the show for anyone who may not have seen it yet!
There are a couple of things that I CAN tell you though – that won’t ruin a single thing!
The visuals are simply stunning and the set/scenery that is used is some of the most spectacular I have ever seen on the West End stage – Charlie’s first appearance and the set that surrounds him is quite something to be seen, as well as the way that the other Golden Ticket winners are introduced – just superb! A special mention must also go out to the bed shared by Charlie’s grandparents – a stroke of genius!
The music – despite only maintaining one song from the original films (more on that later!) fits to each scene like a glove! I have read many reviews that have tried to compare these songs to the superb creations of Tim Minchin that are used in another Dahl smash hit “Matilda.” For me, you can’t compare the two! Yes, they are both based on Dahl stories, and the principal members of the cast are children – but the writers and aims of both shows are very different! The Charlie music team have put their own stamp on their score, just in the way that Tim Minchin did with “Matilda” – and for this Blue Eyed Girl, I am still humming several of the songs even now!
One final mention must go to – what for me is the person who is one of the stand out parts of the show . . .
(Photo from digitalspy.co.uk)
Douglas Hodge, for me, is one of the most brilliant parts of the show – as he has Willy Wonka down to a tee! He is just the right balance of his film predecessors Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp and commands the stage every time he steps on to it – I guess what I simply want to say is he is just phenomenal!
His first appearance just before the interval during “It Must Be Believed to be Seen” is absolutely captivating and from then on, you just can’t take your eyes off him until his “magical” disappearance at the end of the show! A particular highlight for me was the super speedy “Strike That! Reverse It!” where Hodge, along with fellow stand out Nigel Planer (as Grandpa Joe) more than keep up with their younger counterparts as they are introduced to the ways of the factory in a very fast manner!
I couldn’t end this review without mentioning the inclusion of the classic “Pure Imagination.” I was so happy to discover that this beautiful song had been kept as part of this wonderful story – and the sequence that accompanies it in the show totally sums up what the whole performance is about – magic and enchantment!
So I guess all I can say in the words of Mr Wonka himself is: –
“Hold your breath, make a wish, count to three. . . Come with me and you’ll be in a world of Pure Imagination. Take a look, and you’ll see into your imagination!”
Get yourself down to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for a one of a kind of experience that I guarantee will leave you smiling from ear to ear!
Signing off for now,
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx