Charlie and The Chocolate Factory at New Wimbledon Theatre
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory The Musical opened on the West End in 2013 and ran for 3.5 years but it has taken until now for the show to tour the UK. The show is based on the Roald Dahl book which tells of Charlie Bucket who spends their day dreaming up new inventions and new ways to use junk that they come across. When Willy Wonka announces a chance for 5 children to win a tour around the famous chocolate factory it sends the world into a frenzy but with Charlie’s family struggling to afford just one chocolate bar it looks unlikely that they would win, let alone the chance to win the biggest prize of them all.
The show is one of two halves. Act 1 focuses on the hunt for the winning tickets, Charlie’s daily struggles and with each child that wins they get a song that introduces their character. After the second or third winner this begins to feel a bit formulaic in nature and the pace feels slow with the audience wanting to get to the chocolate factory itself. Charlie finding the ticket also seemed anti-climatic and the magnitude of this event glossed over swiftly. The second act however is where the magic begins and we meet Willy Wonka and venture into the Chocolate Factory itself. On top of the pacing issues the musical also lacks heart, whilst Charlie is a nice enough character they are thoroughly two dimensional and possibly a little too perfect which makes it hard to root for them and the children’s comeuppance sat in the odd place between not quite funny but not quite dark.
Fans of the original film will be disappointed to know that only 2 songs from the film are in the show (Candyman and Pure Imagination), instead there is new music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman however the new music is often forgettable and it wouldn’t drive me to the cast recording after seeing the show live.
The cast themselves are all very strong. In the performance I saw Charlie was played by Amelia Minto and the role is shared between 2 boys and 2 girls. Minto was an accomplished performer and carried the show with confidence beyond her years. Gareth Snook played Willy Wonka and did so with just the right mix of eccentric and genius. Michael D’Cruz took on the role of Grandpa Joe who gets out of bed for the first time in years to take Charlie on the trip of a lifetime. D’Cruz portrayed Grandpa Joe with a huge amount of heart and had the audience rooting for him from the start. I also enjoyed the portrayal of Mrs Bucket, played by Leonie Spilsbury who incorporated BSL into her performance.
Whilst the cast were all incredibly strong the real star of the show was the special effects. The set design within the Chocolate Factory relied heavily on video and projection but it really worked, especially when it was incorporated with the actors movement on stage. When needed there were larger physical set pieces, including giant squirrels and a life size fudge Augustus Gloop.
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is a pleasant show but despite a talented cast and impressive projection design it lacks not only heart but also songs that you leave the theatre wanting to hear again.
Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is on at New Wimbledon Theatre until 1st July. You can find out more and book tickets here.