Willy Wonka is one of those iconic names that not only makes your inner kid scream for chocolate but also makes you hum “Pure Imagination” for days after thinking about the film starring Gene Wilder. (Don’t even talk to me about the Johnny Depp remake, I know it closely follows the book but don’t) That’s why going into the new Broadway musical I was delighted and excited to see one of my favs get the musical treatment.
First let me start by saying that contrary to the man reviews, I really enjoyed the show. It’s hard to destroy something that has so much nostalgia and literally invokes goosebumps when hearing the first few notes of “Candy Man”. What I will say is that the second act of the show felt a bit rushed and that may be because we don’t even enter the chocolate factory until the very end of act one. Something many have had a problem with since the show is about the chocolate factory.
I didn’t mind this though, I liked giving the show a chance to introduce each child in their own song, and more so I loved how the show takes a new twist on the relationship between Charlie and Wonka. In the musical, Wonka (played by Broadway golden boy Christian Borle) is seeking a way to make Wonka candy relevant again and find a replacement for himself. He goes undercover and open a candy store in town, this is where he meets Charlie Bucket (played by one of three child actors) and the two begin a friendship of sorts. The rest of the show follows suit with what you have seen in both the Depp and Wilder versions. The zany, wacky, sugary Wonka is front and center throughout and Borle plays him with such fun pazazz that it’s hard not to enjoy watching him on stage.
The end of the show is also beautiful as the glass elevator becomes surrounded by shimmering stars and we see the dreams we all have become a reality. It’s also fantastic to hear the songs from the movie being used throughout the musical.
While not as delicious as the movie, the musical is just as much fun, plus you can buy a chocolate bar at the theater and pretend like you have won a golden ticket!