Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre is purely magical.
Roald Dahl’s classic story has been brilliantly re-told in this theatrical musical comedy, which opened in Melbourne on Thursday. It follows on from a successful six month season at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre and will then move to Brisbane.
The show mixes all the right ingredients to create a highly enjoyable experience. Its quirky and endearing characters are wonderfully portrayed by a stellar cast, Charlie and Willy Wonka’s worlds have been rendered in a clever and visually charming way and the story is carried along nicely by a solid musical score. Energy, fun and laughter are in abundance.
The show starts with our main character, a young, impoverished Charlie Bucket. (played flawlessly on opening night by Lenny Thomas and who will also be played by Benjamin Belsey, Elijah Slavinskis, Edgar Stirling, Lachlan Young throughout the season). Charlie’s favourite chocolate bars in the whole world are those made by Willy Wonka and he holds a fascination about what goes on in the Willy Wonka chocolate factory that stands over his town and where his grandfather once worked many years ago. However, Charlie’s family is so poor that he only ever eats one chocolate bar a year on his birthday.
Charlie lives with his kind and warm-hearted mother, played to great effect by Lucy Maunder and his four grandparents including Grandpa Joe who is closest to Charlie, played by Tony Sheldon who also gives a stand out performance. Charlie is thrilled to discover a new chocolate shop selling Willy Wonka chocolate bars, run by a mysterious owner… When the golden ticket competition is announced Charlie desperately hopes he will be one of the winners. We see the golden ticket competition play out around the globe to hilarious effect. Each spoiled, self-centered, winning child (all played by adults) comes from a different country with some amusing stereotypes and funny observations on modern day youth.
The character of Willy Wonka deftly handled by Paul Slade Smith with much wry wit and sarcasm in his observations as he leads the golden ticket winners through his remarkable factory. He balances the tension of his intolerance for the bratty behaviour with his inevitable warmth for Charlie very well. A special mention also needs to go to the Oompa Loompas. They were a triumph in design and puppeteering. They were very expressive and delivered a couple high energy dance numbers in hilarious fashion.
Each actor seemed perfectly cast for their role, really bringing all of the characters to life in their own unique way and the costume design by Mark Thompson contributed greatly to telling their story. There was clever and vibrant set design with some interesting video projection and 3D effects. The only thing that was slightly underwhelming was the sweets room at the factory. More could have been done to animate the chocolate fountain and it was a little sparse on lollipops and treats.
Jack O’Brien’s direction ensured there was a lively energy throughout the performance and the chemistry between the actors was also evident.
The show received a standing ovation ~ amongst balloons and streamers ~ and deservedly so, having delighted the audience a wonderful piece of escapism.