The wacky world of Willy Wonka has finally made its way onto the West End musical stage. Douglas Hodge is the latest actor to take on the manic mantle of owner of the world’s weirdest chocolate factory, following in the fantastical footsteps of film stars, Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp. Directed by Oscar-winning director, Sam Mendes, this is the hottest “golden” ticket in town. We sent our crack team of lastminute.com reviewers to the new all-singing, all dancing production to find out if it was a case of sugar and spice and all things nice or whether the experience left them feeling bitter-sweet!
First things first – the plot!
Unless you have been hiding in a cave, you probably have read the Roald Dahl classic or seen one of the two film versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So we’ll keep the synopsis short and sweet. Down-trodden youngster Charlie Bucket, wins a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the wonderful Wonka Chocolate Factory. Along with four other “lucky” winners, and his Grandpa Joe, Charlie journeys into a magical world where everything you see might be edible, but also not as sweet as it may seem. From the rather “protective” squirrels to the sheer surrealism of the Oompa-Loompas, to paraphrase another musical star, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz: “they are definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto”.
“Completely mesmerising and as rich as a delicious bar of chocolate! The attention to detail was fantastic and clearly so much thought and care had gone into designing all the added extras such as the opening film with Quentin Blake’s drawings, the TV vignettes and the really beautiful, detailed sets. The cast were also brilliant (they have found the perfect actors for each role) and Charlie was adorable. I was totally immersed. They really captured the innocence and magic of the book. I am not a musical fan but this blew me away.” – Caroline
“I had high expectations after seeing Matilda and I thought the scenery/stage/set etc were outstanding and really loved how smooth everything went. Especially the glass lift which reminded me of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and how clever I thought they did it. I thought the children were excellent and very true to the parts as well as the older members of the cast. I loved the Oompa-Loompas and the creative ways they got around not being that small. The only thing lacking for me was the songs. There weren’t any hugely catchy songs or powerful ballads, not to say the music wasn’t good it just didn’t stand out from other musicals. Douglas Hodge however is perfect as the role of Willy Wonka.” – Louise
Cast, creative and music
The book may be nearly 50 years old, but there is nothing dated about this production. Brought to life by director Sam Mendes, and featuring music and lyrics by Grammy winners, Scott Wittman and Mark Shaiman, the musical puts its own unique spin on Dahl’s dark tale, utilising an adaption written by David Greig. The look of the set and costumes are the brainchild of Mamma Mia’s Mark Thompson, with cool choreography by Peter Darling, who has form for Billy Elliot The Musical and Matilda The Musical. Acting wise, mums and dads might recognise Nigel Planer from anarchic TC show, The Young Ones, but here he “ages up” to play Grandpa Joe.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory exceeded many of my expectations, the stage settings and scenery were fantastic (and changed so quickly), the cast were brilliant, including the young Charlie Bucket; and I never imagined it to include so many mesmerising features from the film. I have been lucky enough to see many musicals in the West End, however Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has gone straight to the top, not only did it rekindle my childhood but left me with a smile on my face which lasted well into the next day.” – Charlotte
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was fun-filled family entertainment from the moment the cocoa bean sprouted until the last morsel of sweet, chocolatey goodness slid down my sugar-engorged gullet. Charlie’s family home created a suitably destitute childhood in the first half with the grandparents providing one of the musical’s best songs. The giant TV used to drive the narrative added a nice touch of cheese to the chocolate, even though it would have been nice to see Nigel Planer add just a small lentils reference!
Inside the Chocolate Factory the colours and sets were just astounding. It was nice to see that Willy Wonka had gone old school and imitated Gene Wilder’s immortalised character. The Oompa-Loompas were great and managed to capture that slightly weird freakishness which had scared me as a child and still manages to unsettle me even now. It would have been nice to have heard them sing the theme song I remembered from the film, but nevertheless the show was finished off perfectly with the elevator floating over the crowd to Pure Imagination. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable evening with the only disappointment being the lack of free chocolate at the end of the production!” – Jodie
How to get your hands on your own “golden” tickets:
Well our reviewers loved the preview show, so if this has inspired you to go and see the hottest musical in town, here’s how!
How to book
Tickets for the show, starting on Wednesday, can be bought by clicking here. Prices begin from £28.80. Sweet!
Where is it?
The Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine Street, right in the heart of Covent Garden. Check out some of our pre-theatre restaurant deals, if all that the of chocolate has left you feeling a little peckish (apparently it is bad form to try and attempt to eat the set).