Charlie & the Chocolate Factory

“The wonderful world of Wonka is a sweet treat for adults and children alike”.

Step into a world of pure imagination as the curtains rise on "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Musical." This enchanting adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved classic invites you to join young Charlie Bucket on a whimsical journey through the gates of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. With a cast of eccentric characters, this theatrical offering promises to transport you to a realm where dreams come to life and everlasting gobstoppers abound. 

It's safe to say that we all know the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, whether that be the written version, or the iconic 1971 film starring Gene Wilder as the enigmatic Willy Wonka.  I must firstly commend Gareth Snook, who is the most perfect embodiment of Wonka.  As soon as he arrives on stage towards the end of Act 1, his portrayal is captivating, humorous and of course slightly bonkers. 

The show itself may be classed as a ‘slow burner’.  From the start we meet the Bucket family.  Our Charlie for this performance was Jessie-Lou Harvie who is a shining star with a beautifully melodic singing voice which also delivered power and confidence throughout.  The role of Charlie is played by both male and female performers throughout this tour which brings a wonderful change to this classic story.  Charlie’s bed-bound Grandparents provided an array of humorous quips and some lovely harmonies during their opening number.  Michael D’Cruze plays Grandpa Joe with a caring quality and worked very well with Jessie-Lou.  It was also refreshing to hear Jessie-Lou’s Scottish accent in all its glory on stage, I have to admit to love hearing a regional accent, so this pleased me no end!

As the story builds, we meet the rest of the winners of the ‘Golden Tickets’ in the shape of Augustus Gloop (Robin Simoes Da Silva), Violet Beauregarde (Marisha Morgan), Veruca Salt (Kazmin Borrer) and Mike Teavee (Teddy Hinde), all of whom provided much hilarity throughout.  As we got inside the factory and each of these characters removed themselves in the most wacky and wonderful ways, the sight of a fully inflated blueberry to signify Violet’s demise had me crying with laughter, and it was at this point that I realised that the show was ok with not taking itself too seriously and to just be a fun experience for children and adults alike.

The staging designed by Simon Higlett was effective in its portrayal of the inside of the run-down Bucket residence to the inside of the factory which relied heavily on LED projections to bring this world of wonder to the stage. It’s a massive feat to recreate such iconic rooms as the ‘Chocolate Room’ and the ‘Nut Room’, so with the use of fantastic video design by Simon Wainwright, this was achieved.

My only disappointment must be the Ooompah-Loompah’s, those iconic orange characters with green hair were nowhere to be seen, only to be replaced by what I can only describe as Cyber-Men from Dr Who.  There was a disturbing feel to their character too, which seemed completely different to their original portrayal, and I admit to being left confused with this choice.

As a regular theatregoer, it’s always important that theatre is totally accessible to all and to see the inclusion of sign language being used by Mrs Bucket and Charlie was refreshing, however this only really happened during parts of the first half, and a small section right at the end, so I was unsure of its purpose if it was not going to be used all the way through.

With familiar songs from the film, including ‘Pure Imagination’ and ‘The Candy Man’, we were also treated to new music composed by Marc Shaiman and written by Scott Wittman.  Each song fits well into the narrative, with ‘Strike That, Reverse It’ being a particular highlight.

Prepare to be swept away in a sweet symphony of candy, creativity, and charm, as this delightful musical promises an unforgettable experience for all ages.  The bonkers nature of Wonka’s world is clear to see and for an easy watch this show will be right street your up…….wait a minute….’strike that, reverse it’……sorry couldn’t resist! 

This show was reviewed on the 18th October 2023.  Charlie & the Chocolate Factory runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until the 5th November 2023.  Tickets available here: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical – Birmingham Hippodrome

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

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