Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Musical

Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, book by David Greig, music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
Leeds Playhouse
The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth

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Gareth Snook as Willy Wonka with Violet Beauregarde (Marisha Morgan), Augustus Gloop (Robin Simoes Da Silva), Veruca Salt (Kazmin Borrer) and Mr Salt (Christopher Howell) Credit: Johan Persson
Willy Wonka and Charlie in the glass elevator Credit: Johan Persson
Veruca Salt (Kazmin Borrer) and the Oompa Loompas Credit: Johan Persson

Saccharine and whimsy compete with Roald Dahl edginess, comeuppance and hope in a smash-hit slick, visually rich world of imagination.

Reinventing the successful West End and Broadway versions and including songs (“The Candy Man”, “Pure Imagination” and “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”) from the iconic 1970s film, the familiar story of rags to riches, spoiled children and just desserts aims to delight young, old and everyone in between.

Simon Higlett’s first half set is grey and simple.

Towering rubbish heaps full of barely broken items and almost nearly perfect treasures prove a rich hunting ground for down-at-heel, chirpy Charlie Bucket (a superb 13-year-old Amelia Minto on press night but with three other gender-neutrally cast youngsters in the wings to take their turn). Her trash treasure is the daily delight of her geriatric rabble of grandparents eking out their days in the loft while (signing) mum (Leonie Spilsbury) makes cabbage soup and works the night shift to keep the wolf from the door of the cutsie ‘house filled with love’.

A seemingly-long first half is filled with the Wonka whirlwind of a desperate hunt for the golden tickets to win a tour and more with Ewan Gillies fun as TV presenter Jerry introducing the ghastly but colourful array of grotesque, spoiled brat winners and doting parents.

The curtain comes down as our hero and Grandpa Joe (Michael D’Cruse) arrive at the doors of the fantastical chocolate factory with the weird and wonderful confectionary recluse—an arch Gareth Snook (Wise Children, Romantics Anonymous, Paddington 2)—ready to lead the motley collection of the world’s youth (and the local urchin) into its hidden, must be believed to be seen, depths.

The second half is resplendent with colour and effects thanks to lighting director Tim Mitchell and video designer Simon Wainwright as camp showman Wonka shows off his creations and casually loses friends along the way.

There’s a chocolate fountain, boat made of rock, exploding bonbons, Gloop fudge, liquid sunshine, everlasting gobstoppers, trained squirrels, robotic Oompa Loompas and so much more to thrill and fear en route to the inevitable triumphant ending and glass elevator.

Chris Fisher’s illusions delight and James Brining directs while Ellen Campbell’s orchestra adds great depth to David Shrubsole’s and Marc Shaiman's score.

A spectacular 2 hours 30 (inclusive of interval).

Reviewer: Karen Bussell

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