Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

“Gareth Snook's portrayal of Willy Wonka was a true highlight of the show"

Having missed the Sam Mendes version, I had eagerly awaited this production, having only seen clips on TV back then. The soundtrack on Spotify is absolutely phenomenal, and I must say that "Strike That, Reverse It" is one of my all-time favourite songs.

One interesting aspect of the show is the casting of four possible Charlies, two boys and two girls. In the performance I attended, Amelia Minto portrayed Charlie with incredible charisma, donning a rainbow-colored top. Perhaps exploring gender roles in a more intriguing manner could involve the sassy ballet girl Veruca Salt being portrayed as a male, while the TV- and gun-addicted boy Mike TV could become a female character.

The inclusion of sporadic sign language by the Bucket family was another unique choice. While it wasn't entirely clear if a member of the family was intended to be deaf or if it was meant to enhance inclusivity, I feel there was room for improvement in this aspect. The signing was only utilised by the Bucket family and was absent in every scene after we entered the factory.

There were a couple of peculiar decisions that caught my attention. For instance, after displaying a clear countdown to finding the golden ticket, the show transitioned to February, with a beautiful snowfall setting the scene. However, it was puzzling that none of the characters on stage seemed affected by the cold. Nevertheless, the visuals were stunning for that fleeting moment.

The show took a bit of time to gain momentum, with two distinct halves. The first half introduced the winners and unfurled at a somewhat slower pace, while the second half picked up speed as each child experienced their unique accidents. Additionally, it struck me as odd that the other winners, who appeared to be older performers, acted as if they were younger. Personally, I would have preferred consistency, either having all the children played by older or younger, rather than Charlie being the only child among them.

Gareth Snook's portrayal of Willy Wonka was a true highlight of the show. He possesses an impressive voice and, in my opinion, carried the production. This rendition of Wonka was more aggressive and had dark undertones, which differed from the jovial and eccentric version in the soundtrack I have heard before.

Simon Wainwright's work as the Video Designer added an enthralling element to the production. The interaction between the cast and the remarkable video wall and floor sets was captivating. Personally, I would have preferred a combination of video and physical set designs instead of an exclusive reliance on video.

When the children had their individual accidents in the factory, they were replaced by rather naïve-looking body stand-in mannequins and other substitutes, which seemed another odd choice. While this could have been a fantastic comedic moment, it was somewhat underplayed. Additionally, the Umpa Lumpas being Tin-manesque robots missed more chances for comedy and some missing plot points left me slightly puzzled.

Despite these minor observations, it was heart-warming to see the joy on the faces of all the children in the audience. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and it was evident that they were having a truly marvellous time, although sadly no golden ticket for me.

This show was reviewed on the 23rd June 2023.  Charlie & the Chocolate Factory runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until the 1st July 2023.  Tickets available here: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Musical | June 2023 | New Wimbledon Theatre, Wimbledon | ATG Tickets

Full tour details here: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical | UK Tour

Review writen by Valentine Gale-Sides

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Photo credit: Johan Persson

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