I know what you’re thinking. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opened in the West End 7 months ago, why am I only reviewing it now? I am asking myself the same question. What I can tell you for sure though, is this will not be my last!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory started life as a children’s book and then developed into a well loved film starring Gene Wilder in 1971. A recent remake of the film in 2005 Stared Johnny Depp and gave the story a dark and twisted edge. For the stage production, Douglas Hodge gives the character of Willy Wonka a fresh new feel as the loveable, just rather crazy, chocolate factory owner. At times his performance brilliantly resembles Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick.
Charlie is a down on his luck child with not a penny to his name. Eating nothing but cabbage soup every night (which often causes the rest of the family to go hungry in sacrifice). Charlie dreams of being an inventor and when he finds out Willy Wonker is holding a competition to allow winners inside his factory, the family do all they can to help him realise his dreams. By pure luck, Charlie wins a golden ticket and is taken on a magical journey through the factory with a selection of other children, it is a story of how greed will get you no where in life but a truly genuine person can fulfil their dreams.
At a whopping £10 million pounds to produce, Sam Mendes put his heart and soul into bringing Roald Dahls much loved children’s book to life on stage for the first time. The set is incredible and the mechanics of it are genius. From the house where Charlie lives with his parents (and bedridden grandparents), to the incredible chocolate factory and all the rooms that lie within it. There is something here to make the smallest child and the biggest adult mesmerised for 2 and a half hours.
The cast were incredible! No weak link in the chain! Charlie Bucket (Oliver Finnegan) and his Grandpa Joe (Nigel Planer), Violet Beauregarde (Lauren Halil) and her greasy father (Damian Poole), Veruca Salt (Matilda Belton), the girl who knows what she wants and the father who knows better than to stop her from having it (Clive Carter), the twitchy Mike Teavee (Jay Heyman) and his even more unstable mother (Iris Roberts) and Augustus Gloop (Alexzander Griffiths) the boy who loves food as much as I love show tunes!) and his mother (Jana Ivir). If I had to choose stand out performers it would be Matilda Belton and Iris Roberts who both brought that little something extra special to their roles.
The songs in the show are fresh and modern. Strangely, the only particularly weak number was the act1 finale (which seemed odd to not end on a high).
Whilst there is nothing groundbreaking in this production, it is without doubt the most current musical in the west end and is full of pure imagination.
Whether you love chocolate, magic or theatre you will surely love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. If you have a penchant for all three then you will be in theatrical heaven.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now booking until May 2015. Click here for tickets