Album Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Original London Cast Recording)


“That’s my Charlie, that’s my son”

At a time when big new musicals have been dropping like flies, the mere fact that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is still open is something of an achievement, never mind its actual enduring success. And with a major cast change soon to take place (featuring the likes of Alex Jennings and Josefina Gabrielle, just to make sure that I have no choice but to return), it seemed as good a time as any to give the soundtrack a listen.

I’ve seen the show a couple of times now and even in the couple of months between those viewings, it was clear that my original thought, that Marc Shaiman’s score might possess longevity that wasn’t initially obvious, wasn’t too far off the mark. The tunes worm their way into your head under the cover of the cuckoo in the nest that is the late-arriving ‘Pure Imagination’ which predictably is what most people will leave the Theatre Royal Drury Lane humming. 

But for me, the music is stronger than that. The melodic hooks in songs like ‘A Letter from Charlie Bucket’ and ‘If Your Mother Were Here’ resonate with a lovely warm familiarity, the interval-straddling Willy Wonka numbers are the perfect introduction for the iconic central character and the range of musical styles employed to characterise the four children who get golden tickets alongside Charlie Bucket is an inspired choice. 

There’s no mistaking that it is a score that requires a little attention, a little perseverance in hitting the replay button but once you get there, the delights are plentiful. The quietly building ecstasy of ‘Don’cha Pinch Me Charlie’ is just adorable in Nigel Planer’s hands and the marching rhythms of ‘A Little Me’ add towards a lovely finale as Douglas Hodge and Jack Costello (the Charlie featured here) undertake the rites of passage from apprentice to factory owner.

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