Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is based on the original much-loved children’s story by Roald Dahl, which was first published 52 years ago. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the author and the third birthday of this popular musical in London.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is currently showing at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane where visitors are welcomed by the sweet smell of chocolate as they step inside. Despite the theatre’s classic décor, it really does feel as though you have walked into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. There is even a chance to purchase your own Wonka bar before or after the show!
Revamped as a stage musical, it is directed by Sam Mendes (best known for Bond films Skyfall and Spectre), with live orchestration by award-winning arranger Doug Besterman and new songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Each golden ticket winner is introduced by their own skit, using a variety of different modern music styles that represent their home country.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory features some extremely dynamic sets. The interior of Willy Wonka’s factory is awash with vibrant colour, and clever lighting brings the tasty-looking chocolate waterfall to life. Pre-recorded projections add a refreshing element of action, and explosions of glitter elicit gasps from the audience.
The Oompa-Loompas were positively outrageous, glowing in their dark space outfits and marshmallow man-style costumes with built-up shoes; there was even a mysterious element of puppetry involved in their scenes.
Willy Wonka himself ends the show with the song Pure Imagination (originally written for the 1971 film with Gene Wilder), which sparked a feeling of nostalgia.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is certainly a safe option for those putting together a London-based theatre itinerary, because the storyline is so well known. The show is lengthy at two-and-a-half hours, and seemed to be more true to the book than the more recent movie adaptation.
It is a musical tailored to a younger audience (the theatre can provide booster seats for the smaller children in your party) and has proven to be extremely popular with school-age groups.
The production is slow moving to start, with the first half focusing on Charlie’s story, ultimately building up to the grand opening of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in part two.
Sadly, in my opinion, the production leaves little to the imagination, with a repetitive structure that at times meant that the audience seemed to struggle to keep engaged. However, although I didn’t feel that it was ‘overbearing’ as a musical, it was disappointing that none of the scores are particularly memorable.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is currently booking until December 2016. Discounted tickets are available for groups of 10-plus, 25-plus and 40-plus, valid for performances Monday to Friday at 1930hrs and Wednesday at 1430hrs. For more information visit www.charlieandthechocolatefactory.com.
Reviewed by Amy Moore