Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – The Musical

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one of Roald Dahl’s best known books, which is why the expectations are high for James Brining’s tour. Unfortunately, this adaptation of David Greig, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s musical has not those expectations.

Just seems like a wasted trip

Greig’s book follows the plot of Roald Dahl’s book faithfully. Charlie Bucket’s (Amelia Minto) family lives in poverty in the shadow of Willy Wonka’s (Gareth Snook) chocolate factory, which has been closed for many years. After finding a golden ticket, Charlie joins the other winners - Augustus Gloop (Robin Simoes Da Silva), Veruca Salt (Kazmin Borrer), Violet Beauregard (Marisha Morgan) and Mike Teavee (Teddy Hinde) on a tour of the factory in an effort to win Mr Wonka’s mysterious competition.

Brining’s direction is very uneven. Moments that are meant to have a greater impact or gravity – like Charlie finding the ticket – aren’t given the time that they deserve (especially given how pivotal this moment is) and instead are glossed over before moving swiftly on. Another example of this problematic pacing is whenever a tragedy is to befall one of the children, there is a significant pause where it seems like Wonka could easily step in and stop it from happening, which hampers the flow of the scene, but then again maybe Snook's Wonka just hates children. Chris Fisher’s illusions are interesting, from Wonka’s cape and hat to Mike Teavee’s miniaturisation, and provide the occasional moment of wonder, something this musical sorely lacks. Simon Wainwright’s video design tries to make up for the minimalist approach of Simon Higlett’s set design, and whilst I realise that there is a difficulty with transporting large pieces of set around the country and having to set them up in different venues, it just doesn’t feel the same without there being something more to see. The space just seems empty, and for a musical about a magical factory that has all sorts of concoctions beyond our wildest dreams, it’s incredibly disappointing to not see anything close to that onstage. The stage at the New Wimbledon Theatre is just too big for video to effectively take the place of set, and it often looks like the cast are playing to nothing. It’s hard to really care about the show when it’s missing the magic at the heart of it.

Minto is suited to the role of Charlie, her complete innocence is very endearing and her voice matches the score well. Willy Wonka is an iconic role and with so many greats tackling it, Snook is open to many challenges and comparisons as he takes on this role. There’s not much he can do that we haven’t already seen, but there's just nothing in his itnerpretation of the character. He doesn’t have the whimsy and sadness of Gene Wilder’s (a comparison made even stronger by the direct lifting of Pure Imagination into the score), Johnny Depp’s darkness and snark or Christian Borle’s mischief. The thing is, even on his own merit, his performance is rather bland, and despite him increasing his volume every so often, he doesn't do much else. His big showstopper, Act 1 finale It Must Be Believed to Be Seen doesn’t even properly register as one. He's hasn't made his performance in this role big enough to make an impression. All of the performers playing the golden ticket winners act believably like children, to such an extent that on occasion it’s hardly noticeable that they are adults. In particular, Borrer’s performance as Veruca Salt leans into the petulance and spoiled nature of the character to such an extent that her exhibitions where she is at the centre are enjoyable and humorous blips in an otherwise mediocre musical.

This UK tour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is anything but like stepping into a world of pure imagination. This adaptation is basically a bit of nothing, and in the end just seems like a wasted trip.

Reviews by Katerina Partolina Schwartz

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The Blurb

Based on the iconic story, this spectacular stage show follows the hit West End and Broadway productions to combine the memorable songs from the original 1970’s motion picture (‘I’ve Got a Golden Ticket’, ‘The Candy Man’ and ‘Pure Imagination’) with all new numbers from the multi award-winning songwriters of Hairspray.

When Charlie Bucket finds one of the five golden tickets to the Wonka Chocolate Factory, he and the other winners can’t wait to feast on the sweets of their dreams. But beyond the gates, they discover more than just remarkable edible delights. As they embark on an extraordinary journey through Willy Wonka’s marvellous mind, they soon learn that nobody leaves the same way that they arrived…

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