“Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it in dew
Cover it in chocolate
and a miracle or two?
Creative: if there was one word to describe Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory novel, this word is undoubtedly the one. So, the challenge was never displaying this creative, interesting story on the big screen (as a movie), for large budget films can do anything with modern technology, however, displaying this story on stage, in front of an audience, that would indeed be a challenge, but nonetheless, it was masterfully done.
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory on Broadway is, like its source material, creative without a doubt. It is fun, colorful, filled with chocolate, and best of all, it follows the source material. It opens as the movie/book does, and closes like the movie/book does. That said, the slogan for the show “A New Factory For a New Generation” is somewhat misleading, as this is the same story we all know, just on stage, but that’s where the beauty of the show lies. From Oompa Loompas, to Mike being digitized, the creative team formulated innovative ways of incorporating every ridiculously fun scene from the movies into the show. For example, we all remember Buruca getting thrown down the bad nut shoot, well, the show incorporates this scene by having conveyor belts running all around the periphery of the stage, meanwhile life sized squirrels dance and determine what nuts are good and bad. It’s all very fun, but of course, it would be no fun if the audience didn’t develope a relationship with characters. Charlie is portrayed from the get go as a modest, poor, moral boy who is creative beyond belief. Willy Wonka, played by Tony award winner Christian Borle is only fleshed out towards the second half of the show, but he definitely steals the show when ever he is on stage due to his outrageous humor. Every joke Borle makes lands perfectly, and some are even somewhat dirty and made for the adult audience; some may not like this, but the children in attendance don’t get it anyway, so why not!
The show is split into two acts, separated by an intermission. This is the normal formula for most broadway shows, except here it felt out of place. The whole first half of the show (roughly an hour and a half) is spent outside of the factory. Of course, crucial events take place outside the factory, such as our main characters finding golden tickets, but it felt elongated. For example, there is a whole scene dedicated to Charlie’s mom; anyone who watched the original would know that the “Cheer Up Charlie” song sung by Charlie’s mom is heartfelt, however here they attempt to add another layer to that sadness by proposing that Charlie’s father had died. It’s an interesting change, but one that is never fleshed out, that’s why it is simply proposed, not stated. This makes Charlie’s mom’s song weird, as the audience is wondering what happened to his father instead of being taken in by the lyircs. Spending time with Charlie’s grandparents is also fun at times, for their quirky, older humor is fun, but it slowly dies out as Grandpa Joe becomes the main focus of the four; the creative team opted to spend so much unnecessary time with the grandparents that could have been cut out entirely. Furthermore, another change is that Willy Wonka is now the candy man. So, the local candy shop literally opened right before the golden ticket announcement, and of course, Charlie and Willy form a relationship, but neither of them ever mention it again, even after Charlie is in the factory. It was simply so odd; it would have been a lot better if Christian Borle was not in the play until the factory, as that would make it all the more exciting. Christian Borle’s impeccable singing skills and all around talent was wasted by having him be the candy man for the first half; literally all he does is sit in front of the television as every golden ticket holder is announced. His humor is still there, but not as frequent.
The factory was of course where the creative, fun scenes occurred, and comparably, everything before it was boring. However,the factory is pure and utter fun. From a boat being propelled in the air, to oompa loompas, to a blueberry girl, everything in the factory is masterfully done with a lot of creativity. I would have liked more scenes to take place in the factory and not in the outside world, as some scenes from the movie were cut. For example, the soda that makes Grandpa Joe and Charlie float was nowhere to be found. I suppose doing that on stage would be hard, but this creative team would be the ones who could have accomplished that.
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory on Broadway is getting 3 out of 5 Wildcats; it’s creative, fun, and has great, funny characters, but it’s odd pacing issues and weird splitting of the acts really takes away from the show, as the first half lacks, and the second shines.
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory on Broadway:
3 out of 5 Wildcats