Willy Wonka wows, but critics less impressed by Mendes musical

Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:51pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

LONDON (Reuters) - Director Sam Mendes earned grudging critical acclaim for a stage musical of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" but was always going to struggle in comparison to much-loved past productions of Roald Dahl's work.

The glitzy new staging of Dahl's children's novel, which opened in London on Tuesday, battles universal acclaim for an earlier production of his "Matilda", Gene Wilder's whimsical Willy Wonka in the 1971 film and Johnny Depp's turn in 2005 - not to mention the audience's memories of the book.

Acquiring the rights was a two-decade personal quest by the 47-year-old Mendes, best known for directing the hugely successful 2012 James Bond film "Skyfall" and winning a Best Director Oscar for "American Beauty".

"I spent 25 years trying to get the rights for 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' to do on stage," Mendes told Reuters from the red carpet at the play's premiere on Tuesday.

Critics praised Mendes for the sleek technical wizardry of the lavish show, which zips along in the second half using intricate sets, puppetry and ingenious costumes.

However, Act One drags in its telling of how impoverished Charlie Bucket wins the golden ticket that will allow him to tour Wonka's chocolate factory alongside the greedy Augustus Gloop, gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde, spoiled brat Veruca Salt and the terrifying videogame addict Mike Teavee.

Musically, critics had little time for the songs of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

"Marc Shaiman's music is mainly unmemorable and the lyrics are hard to make out in the ensemble numbers," wrote Libby Purves in a three-star Times review on Wednesday.


Director Sam Mendes arrives for the royal world premiere of the new 007 film "Skyfall" at the Royal Albert Hall in London October 23, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett