We often remember those books or movies that entertained us as children with a type of fondness. After all, these texts and films were gateways into other worlds. They were our first looks into the idea of entertainment and they often did so by throwing us into far away lands with whimsical characters and daring stories. We watched in awe as they unfolded throughout our book pages, on our television sets, and even on the big screen. In a way, these stories raised us to be the entertainment-loving individuals we are today and without them, we certainly would not have the same likes, dislikes, or appreciation for the craft. We love these things because they hit us directly in the nostalgic part of our hearts
With this in mind, it is no wonder that the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical would be so interesting to watch unfold. After all, this is a story that many of us heard when we were little. Little kids, beings who naturally already coveted sweets, were amazed at the thought of this otherworldly candy factory that existed on the edge of imagination and creativity. Full of whimsy and enchantment, its no wonder that so many kids dreamed of going to this fictional candy factory; in a way, we all were Charlie Bucket wishing to find the golden ticket. This is a story that captivated children when it was written in 1964 and it still captivates us to this day.
Despite a type of love and nostalgia, it can be difficult to look at a text with multiple types of mediums intersecting and weaving together simultaneously. After all, the original story exists in several different forms. First, we have the original book by Dahl that was, as previously stated, released in 1964. Then, about seven years later, we have the release of the wildly popular film adaptation starring Gene Wilder. Time passed and in 2005, a new movie reboot hit the theaters directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. While all of these different types of storytelling have their benefits, one cannot deny that in some ways, they are wildly different from one another. If one were going to make a musical based on the fundamental story, there were many different variations of that tale to choose from. So, we can ask only one real question now that the musical has hit the stage for some time.
What can one say of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical?
For starters, the set designs to be wildly fun and inventive. Specifically, it is incredibly inventive how the set designs deal with smaller details. Now, don't get me wrong; while I watched this musical, I had an absolute blast taking in the eye candy designs that were the sets as a whole. The stage makes great use of modern day technology as it often uses screens and capitalizes on using minimalistic designs for greater emphasis. However, what personally attracted my eye is the use of smaller details and designs to create an overall environment. This musical does wonders when it comes to making use of the smaller designs to create a strong emotion or feeling. Specifically, I adored the little set prop used to indicate the candy story; the set piece worked enough to convey the feeling of the store while giving the characters ample room the explore the rest of the stage space. Overall, it was wonderful to see the sets and the world come to life in this stage production.
Another thing that I simply must complement when it comes to the musical is the character of Wonka himself. From both versions that I have listened to/seen, I must say that they way Wonka is written and performs does well to capture the overall Wonka energy the play needed to be a good adaptation. In a way, it works to capture two different types of energies that come from the two movie versions of Wonka. The musical Wonka does well to embody the lively energy of Gene Wilder while also adopting some of the quirks of Depp's performance. On top of this, the changes made to Wonka as a character in the script do well to tie all the stories together. Instead of hiding out in the factory, it is so refreshing to see Wonka disguising himself as the candy store owner to get a better insight on his sales and ideas for the future. It does well to immediately put the main character of intrigue into the story as quickly as possible while also giving him an opportunity to bond with Charlie. Wonka was such a delight to watch move, talk, and sing in this performance and his moments are certainly some of my favorites.
On top of Wonka, I must say I love the choices made concerning Charlie as a character. Like Wonka, there are moments in the musical that are highlighted in order to make the overall story flow and feel comprehensive. There is a touching little part of the musical that has Charlie writing a letter to Wonka about invention ideas. At the end of it, he makes the letter into a paper airplane and tosses it out the window. It's revealed at the end of the musical that Wonka received and read the letter which further cemented Charlie as a possible candidate to receive the factory. It is just a cute little moment that lets us really see into Charlie's mindset while also providing a chance for Charlie and Wonka to connect. Overall, Charlie's character in this musical really was a nice addition to Dahl's candy-coated universe.
As a musical, one must comment upon the musical numbers. For me, the only way I can describe them is that they are a lot of fun. Personally, they matched the wild and zany tone of the musical. The characters had a lot of fun expressing their personalities through the songs and they were equally as fun to listen and watch. It was interesting to see how the five ticket winners were expressed not only in costume, but in their songs as well; with different song styles and outfits, it was really cool to see these characters further explored through song. In showing personal bias, I would have to say that my favorite song moments come from Wonka himself. His songs are absolutely charming and the personality that comes with them just emphasizes this point. In both versions I have listened to, the Wonkas do a great job at capturing a wild yet whimsical feeling just in the way that they sing. Overall, I would definitely give these soundtracks a listen.
With all of these things in mind, I can't help but talk about the wildest thing of all to me about the musical as whole: how dark it turned out to be in the end. Now, this is one place that the book and the movies split in terms of storytelling. The remake does a good job at establishing through a single scene that though the other four ticket winners go through moments of hardship and have to learn a lesson, they are okay in the end. They come out of the madness that is Wonka's factory breathing and, for the most part, well. The musical on the other hand, can not claim the same thing. When it comes to the visuals concerning the children in the factory, it holds no punches and leaves us feeling awed and, at times, honestly creeped out. The bright and whimsical part of this musical keeps me entertained, but it is the darker sections that keep me absolutely captivated. Tis wonderful mix creates an interesting musical experience that I dare not spoil for you. I highly recommend you check it out for yourself.
Overall, this musical was a fun experience and reminded me once again what I loved about the original Dahl story.