Sometimes touching something near and dear to so many people is a risky business. Broadway producers know that risk when they take a classic like Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and create a new musical for the stage. The musical opening April 23rd on Broadway first appeared in London in 2013 and ran for almost four years. With a book by David Greig and a score by March Shaiman and Scott Wittman (the duo behind Hairspray and TV's Smash), director Jack O'Brien (after coming on board when Sam Mendes left) still felt the show needed to be tinkered with more before allowing American audiences to see it. And they have tinkered. Songs have been thrown out. Adults now play kids on stage and well - it appears that scenic and costume designer Mark Thompson had his budget cut in half as the look of the show is very different from what was on The West End. (Note: IF you plan to see it on Broadway, DON'T google the trailer for the London production.)
I'll admit that I was never a huge fan of the film growing up, plus I read theater forums religiously and the word of mouth was not good on this show. Still, my husband loves BOTH films and wanted to see this so we went once the show was frozen just a few days before the official opening.
I was VERY entertained!
Sometimes it's best to go in without certain expectations for a show. This is a musical for kids and adults alike - lots of adult humor that can go right over the heads of children. There are a few songs from the film that you will recognize, but then Shaiman and Wittman have written an original score that has a great sound. Fine - it may not be as good as their Hairspray score (and I'm sure some reviewers will say that), but why must everyone be compared to what they've already done. The View from Here is a BEAUTIFUL song and so fitting for this show. (Hear some of it in this clip below.)
The musical follows the darkness of the original book more than the film. Willy Wonka has also been added to the beginning of the musical so gone is the anticipation of seeing him at the Factory, but I like the character he has now as the candy man early on. Christian Borle has had a busy year on Broadway with both Falsettos and this show. He takes bits and pieces from previous Wonkas before him, yet makes the devilish role his own. He sounds great, he's working up a storm, and seems to be enjoying the part of child tormentor.
Three little boys split the role of Charlie and Ryan Foust was absolutely adorable at our performance. At first I thought it would bother me to see the other children played by adults, but not at all. Violet, Augustus, Veruca and Mike Teavee are all portrayed wonderfully by these adults. The parental arms of each on the journey through the factory are pretty darn great too with a special shout out to Ben Crawford (who I always love seeing on stage) as Veruca's dad and Jackie Hoffman sharing her comic genius with us.
Emily Padgett is a loving mom trying to keep it all together for Charlie and his grandparents and seeing John Rubinstein (the original Pippin) back on Broadway as Grandpa Joe is worth the price of the golden ticket! The entire ensemble looks to be having an awesome time playing everything from reporters, to other kids to yes...Oompa Loompas! Special holler to Talya Groves who shines in whatever she does!
I have a tendency to pick shows a part, but I will say that I enjoyed this more than some other musicals (I will not name) that are on Broadway this year as well last. My hubby is a regular Joe/audience guy. He loved the performances, the darkness of it, but even he said he wished there was more 'magic' with the scenic design and not leaving so much up to our imagination. (You can see from the photos that the factory is the same set over and over with some light changes and usually one set piece pushed to the middle of the stage.) I simply say it looks like they are ready for the bus & truck tour of the show so they've already cut it down to make it easier to take Charlie all across the country so that more families get a chance for that golden ticket!