REVIEW: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Original Broadway Cast

Recording CoverI love an overture. I lament the fact that most new musicals do not have them. That is why I was so excited when I saw that the original Broadway cast recording of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had one. I actually thought my iPhone had made a mistake when, after only 27 seconds, the next song began. I cannot stress this enough: 27 seconds does not an overture make! My indignation at this aside, the word that kept coming to mind when I listened to this album was "serviceable". This is a good show for families, especially those with young children who are fans of Roald Dahl's stories.

The music, by Marc Shaiman, with lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, is accessible and peppy, but nothing really grabs you. There are none of the catchy yet meaningful songs such as those found in Hairspray, or even my long lost love SMASH. The best songs in the show are those carried over from the 1971 film, penned by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, specifically "Pure Imagination" and "The Candy Man".

Christian Borle does a good job of walking the line between charming and creepy which is required when playing Willy Wonka, and is quite amusing in many of his asides, particularly in "The Candy Man", and in the what I can only wish is the Missy Elliot inspired "Strike That, Reverse It". With such a solid performance, it is a shame that the score doesn't grant him a truly stand out moment.

Charlie, the titular role shared by Jake Ryan Flynn, Ryan Foust, and Ryan Sell, has several charming moments, the best being his letter to Wonka, "A Letter From Charlie Bucket". He shares much of his stage time with his Grandpa Joe (John Rubinstein) and his mother (Emily Padgett) who sings an anthem of the ‘poor single woman' that I really could have done without, "If Your Father Were Here".

All of the Wonka Golden Ticket winners get their own number in an effort to endear themselves to the audience. They range from the tired and sadly fat-shaming "More of Him to Love" to the almost too on-the-nose "What Could Possibly Go Wrong", warning us of the evils of screen time and social media.

By far, the best song on the album is Violet Beauregard's ode to herself, "The Queen of Pop", performed by the talented Trista Dollison. It is an upbeat soul inspired number, and Dollison's vocal runs are fabulous. It reminded me of "Run and Tell That" from Hairspray, and will earn a permanent place in my work-out mix.

The other tracks are fine, if a bit forgettable, and I must admit to disliking the show's attempts to revamp the Oompa Loompas with the truly unimaginative "When Willy Met Oompa".

This is a show tailor-made for families visiting the Great White Way, and those shows are very important to the overall success of the industry. However, this album sadly fails to entice one to want to shell out the Wonka Bucks for a ticket.


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