When I sat down to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The New Musical, I was excited and not sure what to expect. I grew up reading the book and watched the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). I had some idea of what to anticipate but didn’t expect too much to change from the source material. Boy, was I wrong so very very wrong.
Now I have never seen the Johnny Depp remake nor do I want to. Frankly, it creeped me out then and it still does now. All my comparisons are from what I read and the movie I grew up with. By the end, there were two major changes I noticed; the changes in this musical actually left kids crying in the bathroom and parents leaving the theater.
Shockingly, kids actually died in the show or at least it was implied they did. We all know that out of the Lucky Golden Ticket Finders it’s Charlie who prevails while the others meet some interesting fates like exploding into a million pieces. We never see them explode and it’s also never even implied they will be chopped up to make fudge or get torn apart limb from limb. That never occurs in the movie, but it does happen in this whimsical take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even though Wonka says they can be fixed we never actually see it happen.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think for the most part it was done brilliantly. Charlie, Willy Wonka, and Grandpa Joe were a delight to watch. I didn’t even mind Veruca Salt who is usually one of the most annoying characters in any version. What really stood out from the film and book version is that Veruca and Violet Beauregard both meet terrible fates on stage.
Violet, who is a bubble gum chewing Instagram star, eats the gum she’s told not to eat. Yes, she turns into a blueberry. That part was kept, but then they added that she actually blows up! Boom! Her purple tracksuit and glitter litter the stage. We even see her shoes still attached to what’s left of her body!
I did not expect that. In the 1971 film, she is simply rolled to the juicing room to be squeezed and doesn’t actually explode. Her dad simply sadly says “I have a blueberry for a daughter”. He wasn’t left holding her carcass.
Veruca is now a Russian Ballerina with a Dad who looks more like a mob boss than a peanut factory owner. She looks like the typical spoiled brat with a crown to match all clad in pink. She is heard constantly saying “Mine!” whenever she wants something. She even stomps her foot. One thing to note is the only actual child actor is Charlie all the other kids are played by adult actors.
Veruca ends up wanting one of the Wonka nut-sorting squirrels. She heads into the room after being told not to. In the sorting room, Veruca ends up doing what we thought was a very nice ballet piece with the squirrels. Then suddenly we see her being torn apart and her decapitated head is thrown into the nut pile as the squirrels say “bad nut.” My mouth fell open as did my parents. Half the audience was just like what the heck did we just see. I was wondering if I had just walked into an episode of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Decapitations in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not a thing that should happen!
I think they were really trying to show that when you are bad horrible things will happen to you. Maybe they could have been a little less extreme? I mean she goes down a chute in the film and is called a “bad egg.” In the book, all the kids are sort of fixed and are seen leaving the factory. Why couldn’t that happen here? Maybe it was to make it darker? I don’t know.
What I do know is that I will do what I do every time around this time of year and enjoy watching Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. The scariest part of the movie for me will be the tunnel scene and Mike’s Wonka Vision going horribly wrong. In the stage adaption, we don’t see them board the gorgeous yacht sadly. We also don’t see them all experience the crazy creepy visions and Wonka doing his famous scary chant.
The biggest take away from this for me was I never have to see that nightmare imagery again. I can just go back and enjoy watching the original movie like a kid again. I’ll also enjoy knowing when I re-watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory this holiday season that at least Veruca and Violet don’t end up dead.