I was among the VOXers attending the opening night of the hit Broadway musical “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at the Fox Theatre on September 24 and it was, uhh, interesting. Unlike most Broadway in Atlanta productions that I have seen, I have no interest whatsoever in seeing this a second time. Sitting through this musical for three hours made me physically exhausted. When I arrived home I literally passed out onto my bed (fully clothed), without doing my leagues of homework, from the pure exhaustion that I had to put myself through to stay alert.
So, here are the three things I most disliked about “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”:
Act One Was Entirely Too Long
I want you to imagine back to any “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” adaptation. Whether it be the original “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” film (1971), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) or the novel “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (1964). Think about how long it took for Charlie and the other golden-ticket holders to arrive to the factory. I’ll give you a hint, in the 2005 film, it only took 33 minutes and 7 seconds. That’s about 29% of the entire run time, meaning that the remaining 71% is inside the factory full of director Tim Burton flavor.
Now, the musical counterpart has a two-hour 30-minute runtime (as opposed to the one-hour 55-minute runtime of the 2005 film) with the first act being an hour long. AN HOUR LONG. That’s a whole hour of Charlie saying “I’m poor” and Wonka saying, “I’m selfish.” This was the part where I wanted to gouge my eyes out from boredom. Not to mention, the terrible child acting (see #2) and cringy jokes. The leadup to the main set piece of the entire show was too long and I simply don’t see why it would take so long, given that most of the first act was evident fluff.
Oof, Child Acting
You can’t blame children for not being the greatest actors. This was just the first time I’ve reviewed a musical with a child actor as the lead and I’m sorry, but he didn’t do the best job. His delivery came off flat but obnoxious at the same time which I didn’t think was possible. But now that I think about it, every actor came off as obnoxious except for Willy Wonka (Noah Weisberg,) who was almost unenergetic, which is confusing when paired with Wonka’s eccentric personality. However, once you take into account that this is meant for kids four and up (even though cast members curse), then you begin to realize that the obnoxious dialogue is for the kids in order to keep their attention. Again, this is a departure from the plays that I normally see geared for a teen-age and up audience with appropriate dialogue and energy.
It Felt Too Safe
I know that it might seem unfair to judge a musical based on a movie with different directors and directions, but I think it’s fair to take into consideration the adaptations of the story you’re adapting before making a new version. For the most part, this latest “Chocolate and the Chocolate Factory” felt too cookie-cutter. The actors were acting for the kids and all of the jokes were for the old, white season ticket holders. I wanted to see a Burton-esque musical that played to the weird side of the medium by taking risks. Take for example, the current Alliance Theatre production “Becoming Nancy” that features a gay lead character who kisses another guy profusely throughout the play. So much so that some of the older “normal” audience members left during intermission and didn’t return for Act Two. Or “Hamilton,” the hit Broadway musical that has all of its dialogue written in rap (no matter how irritating that was). Or “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and “Rent” for covering topics such as terrorism, suicide, and the AIDS epidemic, respectfully.
The only thing I will remember about this musical was that it made me an hour late to school the next morning because I had to finish homework because I passed out upon getting home from extreme boredom.
But what do I know? I’m just a 16-year-old kid, who supposedly doesn’t even like musicals.
Taj McKnight, 16, attends Maynard Jackson High School and hopes to find a greater appreciation for “Wicked” upon a second viewing in October.