Tag Archives: chocolate

Matilda The Musical (Cambridge Theatre)

matildaI’ll be honest; I walked out of the theatre at the end with a childish spring in my step and wanting to see the whole show all over again that very minute.  As soon as I got home, I was straight onto iTunes to download the album.  With its music and lyrics by Australian comedian Tim Minchin, a talented cast, great stage effects, 7 Olivier Awards in 2012 and a Broadway transfer, Matilda is THE musical to see in London.

Matilda was one of my favourite Roald Dahl books as a child; the story of an intelligent girl being brought up by grotesquely stupid parents and sent to a school with a terrifyingly hulkish headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.  It is only through Matilda’s escapism into stories and books at the local library with Mrs Phelps and the nurturing tuition of her teacher Miss Honey that she summons the courage to stand up to the awful adults in her life.

The show opens with the wonderfully precocious “My Mummy says I’m a miracle.  My Daddy says I’m his special little guy…”, a satisfying jibe at the stereotypical pushy parents obsessed with their perfect children – a song that has been stuck in my head almost ever since.  Other stand out songs include Naughty, Telly and the exceptional When I Grow Up which is all about children wanting to be old enough to do what they want, but cleverly written from the adult perspective remembering all the things they thought they’d be able to do as grown-ups.

The kids are fantastic – Matilda (Chloe Hawthorn) is brave and engaging – essential if the audience are to like you – with an irresistible subversiveness, outwitting the adults at every turn; her best friend Lavender (Ella Yard) comes across as a lovely girl with a hint of mischief and the alliteratively named Bruce Bogtrotter (Marcus May) who not only ‘devours’ a whole chocolate cake as a punishment, but also opens Revolting Children with the sort of notes that would give most R&B divas a run for their money.

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Miss Trunchbull (David Leonard) is every bit as sinister and menacing as I’d hoped, with a very unsettling girlish giggle which thankfully doesn’t stray into pantomime dame territory.  Mr Wormwood (Steve Furst) makes a comically unscrupulous dodgy dealer and Mrs Wormwood (Annette McLaughlin) is unashamedly vain and self-obsessed.  At the opposite end of the scale, librarian Mrs Phelps (Melanie La Barrie) is adorably warm and helps to draw us into Matilda’s storytelling scenes and Miss Honey (understudy Lara Denning) who draws her own strength from Matilda and manages to be fragile without being a sympathy case – a very difficult thing to balance.

My only small niggle (and it really is small) is that I was surprised how little time was devoted to Matilda’s telekinetic abilities – I remember there being far more of it in the book.  But all in all, the best musical I’ve seen in a long time – an absolute treat for children and adults alike.  I’ll definitely be going back for more.

Matilda is at The Cambridge Theatre, Seven Dials, 32-34 Earlham Street, WC2H 9HU and is currently booking until May 2014.  The show is suitable for all ages but the theatre recommends it for children aged 6 and up (and adults wishing to indulge their inner child).

http://uk.matildathemusical.com/

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Wednesday 22nd May 2013charlie

 I’m very picky on my musicals.  I haven’t seen ‘Phantom’ or ‘Les Mis’ and as it’s unlikely that they’ll be closing any time soon, I don’t have the same sense of urgency to see them as I do with plays that get a 10-week run.  So it’s a rare thing indeed for me to book to see a brand new musical on its first preview night.  But I grew up reading books by Roald Dahl, so as soon as I got word of stage version of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, my inner child frogmarched me to the internet demanding that I booked tickets at once.

It is impossible to separate Roald Dahl stories from the accompanying illustrations by Quentin Blake.  So it brought a huge smile to my face to see the show open with a cartoon sequence all about chocolate, drawn by Blake himself.  Even though Dahl mostly wrote books for children, we can sometimes forget how dark these stories really are – but playwright David Grieg and director Sam Mendes have brought out the best of the morbidity and black humour.

We first meet cheerful urchin Charlie Bucket sifting through the rubbish dump looking for useful things to take home to his poor-but-happy family.  The ramshackle house is gloomy, but filled with the love and tentative optimism of Charlie’s parents and 4 bedridden elderly grandparents, the latter providing much of the black comedy e.g. in the song ‘A Letter From Charlie Bucket’ they softly sing: “Off to bed, counting sheep….hope we don’t die in our sleep”.  There was a small technical glitch (getting the beds lined up again on the trapdoor) but I think this is forgivable on the first preview and will hopefully be ironed out in the coming weeks before the show officially opens.

There is a dose of bitter realism in the story; Charlie gets a Wonka bar for his birthday – but there is no golden ticket.  This provides great contrast to the introductions of the 4 children who win the first 4 golden tickets – the gluttonous Augustus Gloop, precocious Veruca Salt, gum-chewing diva Violet Beauregarde and joystick-happy Mike Teavee – all great caricatures and all instantly dislikeable.  But Charlie gets his golden ticket, so he and Grandpa Joe (Nigel Planer) set off to Willy Wonka’s Factory.

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Under the colourful, gregarious exterior of Willy Wonka (Douglas Hodge) there is something that hovers on the border between mischievous and sinister, almost dangerous.  Wonka, the 5 children and their adult chaperones weave through the factory, with Augustus, Violet, Veruca and Mike meeting their sticky ends.  This is greatly theatrical and the way they create the Oompa Loompas is truly inspired – it’s a technique I’ve seen used before, but it requires 3 C’s: Coordination, Cooperation and Concentration.  I am in awe of anyone who can do it well!

I was quite surprised at how much of Act 1 is spent in the Bucket household rather than at the Factory.  The show is none the worse for it, but I think most people in the audience were expecting to skim through that aspect of the story and get straight to the chocolate.  But you have to finish your dinner before you can have dessert and it’s worth the wait.  The vast majority of this musical is a brand new score – it’s very difficult to tell whether any of them will become classics in their own right when you’ve only heard them once, but stand-out numbers include ‘Don’t Ya Pinch Me, Charlie’ and ‘It Must Be Believed to be Seen’.  I won’t spoil the surprise, but I think you can make an educated guess at which classic song has been included.

The cast are excellent, but the biggest credit must go to the young actor playing Charlie Bucket – the role demands a lot of stage time and lines, plus getting the audience on your side without them feeling sorry for you.  I only wish my programme had included a slip of paper to say which of the 4 boys was playing him!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is currently open for preview, but officially opens on Tuesday 25th June 2013

Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine Street, LONDON, WC2B 5JF

http://www.charlieandthechocolatefactory.com