I sat between children so excited they couldn’t keep still. Smiles of anticipation adorned their faces and their fingers tapped and twitched excitedly as they counted down the minutes.
Chuckling to myself I felt the same surge of excitement as the theatre finally went dark and the curtain lifted and the show began.
And what a show.
Charlie and the Chocolate factory is a feast for the imagination, a West End miracle, a treat for the young and the old. Myself and my eight year old twins were enthralled from start to finish and despite only recongnising one song from the orginal Gene Wilder classic film we tapped our toes and clapped our hands gleefully in time to the engaging score.
I have not seen a musical like it before. The set is outstanding, it harks back to the creativity of Roahl Dahl but is dripping in modern day technology. They explode a blueberry child, shrink a child through the magic of television and soar through the beautiful theatre in a glass elevator. For non musical lovers I would still recommend you watch the show purely to see what Sam Mendes has done with the stage.
The singing is impressive, certainly considering the age of many of the cast and the story, although so well known, is utterly compelling. As I glanced around the darkened theatre I saw captivated faces, all leaning in towards the stage, elation scribbled across their features.
There was one minute where my adoration of Charlie and the Chocolate factory was dampened. It took the line,
“Chocolate, buy your chocolate and get diabetes…”
My eight year old type one diabetic daughter stiffened like a board and whispered, “why are they telling people chocolate causes diabetes, everyone will believe them not me.”
She is right of course, and it saddened me that in the middle of a simply amazing production, a perpetuation of a myth around a chronic auto immune disease that is Type 1 Diabetes, is used to make kids like my daughter feel like they caused their condition. However this is a problem we encounter regularly with society, in case you are reading this and you don’t know: Type 1 diabetes is not caused by overeating sugar, and Type 1 diabetics can eat anything – except poison – and sweets with poison in them.
So, this one line dampened our experience for a moment, but didn’t take away our absolute delight in watching the show, and certainly wouldn’t prevent me from recommending the musical to all and sundry.
The cast are excellent. Willy Wonka steals the performance from the moment he dances down his factory steps. He makes the audience collapse with laughter and when he sings about imagination there is barely a dry eye in the house.
The end came far too soon, but the magic of the show is yet to leave us. My children have not stopped discussing it, re enacting it, and asking when they can see it again.
It is one of the best musicals I have seen, and if you love the stage I would urge you to take your children and let them live in the world of chocolate lakes and mint choc chip lawns for a while.
It is a perfect show, made out of pure imagination.
Disclosure: we were invited to review the show and received complimentary tickets. All thoughts my own.