Can you imagine going to see an all-singing/all-dancin’ show about… meat! Or vegetables or fruit come to that. I thought about this as I watched Channel 4’s The Sound of Musicals last week. They are staging Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London’s West End. From the book – which I think was actually a short story as I do recall reading it in school – to the first film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder to the later 2005 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film which reverted to the original title of the story, chocolate sells. I imagine this musical will do very well; I was filling up just watching a programme about it being made. When that glass elevator lifts Charlie and Wonka into the star-filled sky to the strains of Pure Imagination I defy anyone to keep their eyes dry!
Sweets for all
Despite the easy – too easy? – availability of sweets and chocolates for most young kids today, confectionery still weaves a mystical magic over them and us. Roald Dahl who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a particular fan of chocolate – surprises you that doesn’t it! But not just eating it, studying it too. I recall him being interviewed and talking with great passion about the bars available to a growing child in the 1930s – most of which are still on sale today. Chocolate lines have barely changed since then. Introducing a new chocolate bar is incredibly difficult. We’re mostly wedded to the bars we were bought as kids – or longed to be bought. For someone who’s swearing off chocolate <cries> perhaps going to see a musical about it would slate my drooling tastebuds?
But I doubt it very much. I well recall the first time I saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on television one Christmas. We were one of the few among our friends to have colour TV – this was the early 70s! So several friends piled into our little attic flat to watch the film. We had some sweets left over from the festive period – people didn’t go quite as mad then as they do today. Well we just DIVED on them! The film made us want chocolate like nothing else ever has. We were practically licking the tv screen.
You can’t get that excited about meat! Though that said of course Sweeney Todd is a musical about meat pies but a rather ghoulish kind of meat! I adore the work of Stephen Sondheim who wrote Sweeney Todd but could never see the appeal of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street as it was subtitled.
No for me the theatre means sweet treats which is why I think the latest incarnation of Charlie and Willy Wonka will do very well. I doubt I could get near it even if I wanted to as tickets are selling fast. But even if I could get hold of one of those golden tickets, I dare not. How could you sit through a show like that and not eat chocolate! Anyway I wish the cast and crew of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a very long run.