Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The New Musical - Will's New York Nite Life
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The New Musical
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The New Musical”
by David Greig (book), Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman (music & lyrics)
Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th Street
Original Cast Album on Masterworks Broadway (Sony)
Most of us know this story from the 1971 movie musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but the creators of this new Broadway production have gone back to the original title of Roald Dahl’s 1964 book to convey that this is more than a stage adaptation of that classic film. Instead, Messrs Greig, Shaiman, and Wittman have expanded (adding many new and worthwhile songs), updated (in a way that Dahl, a supreme curmudgeon, would have approved of), and in many ways even improved upon the familiar version. For example, in the movie, the score’s best-known song, “The Candy Man,” is given to a throwaway character; now on Broadway, it’s rightfully become the big opening number, and a proper introduction to Christian Borle as Willy Wonka himself. Virtually everything that’s good about the Gene Wilder movie - including virtually all the unforgettable songs by Leslie Bricusse and the late Anthony Newley - has been retained, and considerable has been added. Veruca Salt (the character name that inspired a well known prog-rock band in the 1990s) is now a Putin-era Russian princess-ballerina, quite literally a prima donna, and Mike Teavee is an internet-addicted social network maven. This is quite possibly the best work yet from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have already Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can, and the under-appreciated Fame Becomes Me to their credit. The new songs stand side by side with the ones we’ve all grown up with. Best of all, the tone of Dahl’s original work, equal parts sardonic and sentimental, has been retained - perhaps even more so in the new songs than in the 1971 ones. Charlie: “Is Mr. Wonka joking, or is he serious?” Grandpa Joe: “ I don’t know. He might be both.” Of all the new shows on Broadway this season, this is the one that might be most worthy of repeated attendance.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL & VANITY FAIR, and reviews current shows for THE OBSERVER and THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of eight books including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)