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A Great Recording of a Good Show
on 9 October 2013
Marc Shaiman's (Hairspray the Musical and numerous brilliant film scores)new musical 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' is a bit of a mixed bag. There are moments of brilliance mixed in freely with mediocrity. Personally, I found it to be a very enjoyable listening experience as a whole and I will be listening to it frequently over the coming weeks - but I can understand why the critics have been quite harsh.
On first listen none of the new songs are very memorable. While listening each is good and enjoyable; but after the CD finished they are all easily forgettable - with ONE exception: Pure Imagination, which wasn't even written for this show.
Apparently (if the internet is to be believed) audiences/critics were saying the second half of the show needed something 'more'. Then some bright spark came up with the idea of putting the most popular song from the film version of the story into this production. Does that work? Almost. Pure Imagination is a brilliant song and it fits nicely into this show; but it also highlights how unmemorable the rest of the songs are.
Now, having said that, there is a lot to love in this production. Firstly: the kids are all excellent. There are moments where diction is a problem; but all is forgiven in the face of such incredible talent. Each child is given a moment to shine and they really give their all. Stand-outs are Charlie and Veruca.
There's also a nice blend of music styles in this show (similar to last years brilliant 'Bring it On - The Musical') - used very effectively to accentuate each child's character. So, you get R&B for Violet, Electronica for Mike etc. It's very effective and makes for a more interesting listening experience.
Now, onto Mr. Wonka himself: Douglas Hodge. Mr. Hodge won an Tony for his performance in last years revival of La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway. I hated him on that recording. He sings through his nose and overacts. But, that is just a personal opinion. So, when I heard he was cast as Wonka for this production I was really disappointed. However, he is actually pretty good here. He still sings through his nose; but it's toned down quite substantially. It helps that he has some very nice ballads to sing (including the wonderful Pure Imagination).
Compared to other recent - and in some ways similarly upbeat - shows that have appeared in the West End and on Broadway (Matilda, Kinky Boots) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory does stand out as being one of the better ones.
If you like your music diverse and upbeat and want something you can sing along to (once you've listened to it a few times so the songs stand out!) then CaeCF is the show for you! Recommended.