Capitol Theatre, Sydney
Guest reviewer: Amy Mitchell
Roald Dahl’s enchanting book is brought to life in this reinvention of a part magic, part menacing classic. The story stays true to the original with some modern twists sprinkled through. Eccentric and reclusive chocolatier Willy Wonka opens the doors of his chocolate factory to five lucky golden ticket winners. Paul Slade Smith plays Wonka as the wacky, charismatic Candyman peppered with the trappings of a psycho who revels in the demise of spoilt kids.
The first four golden ticket winners are exaggerated caricatures representing vulgar vices of modern society like social media, self-medication, self-obsession and lazy parenting. Augustus Gloop and his mother are a hysterically funny, sausage loving duo from Bavaria. Veruca Salt is reinvented as a Russian Ballerina who pirouettes and shrieks her way through to a deliciously wicked and frankly nutty end. Mike Teavee has a modern spin as a vacuous hacker with a social media compulsion and med dependant mum, and Violet Beauregarde is reimagined as a bubble gum popping, Instagram queen from Cali with an impossibly suave dad to boot.
The fifth lucky winner is chocolate obsessed, wise beyond his years Charlie Bucket. The Bucket family with Charlie’s grafter of a mother Mrs Bucket, and four-in-a-bed grandparents including kooky, kind hearted Grandpa Joe are all Australian in this adaptation. The script has been tweaked with a smattering of Aussie references which delighted the local audience. Mrs Bucket adds a soft touch to this sugar rush of a show, with a beautifully moving performance of ‘If Your Father Was Here’.
The staging, visual and special effects are for the most part fantastical combining illustrious projections and clever slide-on scenery – although the chocolate fountain, fashioned from a plain brown silk sheet, leaves a lot to be desired. The songs are a fun blend of classics (like ‘Candyman’, ‘Pure Imagination’ and ‘I’ve got a Golden Ticket’) and reinvented pop and hip hop tunes which are catchy enough. However, the lyrics are often swallowed by the performance.
The Oompa Loompas are a weird and raving triumph with the blend of puppetry and performers – this surprise is a showstopper.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a magical and enchanting moral tale of kindness prevailing, wrapped up in an eccentric, sugar coated world of imagination. This show exaggerates the dark (Veruca’s squirrel centric demise got a few gasps from parents in the audience) and amped up the light with exuberant performances from a flawless sugar sweet cast.