I've said it many times. It's hard to turn a movie into a musical. One of the classic movies is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. But of course, the story of the mystical and magical chocolate factory started with the book by beloved children's author Roald Dahl. One of his other books, Matilda, which was also a movie, was turned into a musical and was fantastic (I saw it twice so I can vouch for it). Unfortunately, this adaption of a Roald Dahl musical falls short.
I will absolutely admit that the only reason I went to the show was to see the incomparable Christian Borle as Willy Wonka. I'm a huge Falsettos fan and especially after seeing Brandon Uranowitz in Prince of Broadway I wanted to see more of the amazing actors from Falsettos live.
I will start by saying the Borle was fantastic. He embodies the character so well and looks like he's having so much fun on stage. He helps everyone use their imagination to see the chocolate factory as there is never really a full set as one might imagine. His commitment to the role is obvious and based of Falsettos and the clips of him in other shows that I have seen, it is incredibly obvious that Borle is one of the best actors on Broadway right now.
The kid who played Charlie the night I was there was also fantastic. Three boys rotate in the role and are all making their Broadway debuts. I think that has something to do with it, as Broadway is a magical place for any actor starting out and the wide eyes and awe possessed by the kids adds to the magic the show tries to put forth.
The first act of the show goes very slowly. It takes the entire act for the Golden Ticket winners to be found and it ends with them entering the factory. The second act, which possesses more of the story as they tour the factory felt rushed and like it could have taken more time. Potentially the writers could have made the first act shorter and given more time in the second act to the factory itself as it is after all in the title of the show.
One thing I didn't not like is how the other Golden Ticket winners weren't played by children. Obviously working with children is hard in the theater but having adults play the parts is not very believable. It takes away some of the magical quality the show has a makes Charlie stick out in an uncomfortable way. On the other hand however, the actors playing the parents do a wonderful job, and like Borle, seem to be having so much fun onstage.
So would I recommend this show? Well I can say yes and no. Any child will be able to appreciate the magic of the show. And adults will hopefully be able to get a laugh out of some of it. It is worth going to see Christian Borle's phenomenal performance but if you don't think that will do it for you, it's a show that can be skipped.