Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the musical – an honest opinion

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical Review

The new musical in London, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, doesn’t disappoint.

The set, costume designs, lighting and overall experience is just amazing. In over 30 years of seeing shows in London the staging of Charlie and the Chocolate factory is the best that I have ever seen. Director Sam Mendes has done a brilliant job but the real credit must go to set and costume designer Mark Thompson and his team.

The set and effects are simply stunning and extremely clever and imaginative. The way the Oompa Loompas are portrayed is very clever too with two people playing each Oompa Loompa to great effect – it needs to be seen to be believed!

All the stars of the show are spot on, the kids are terrific. Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka is brilliant, better even than Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp. In a tone reminiscent of Terry Scott he manages to evoke just the right amount of quirkiness and authority whilst still remaining warm and at the same time displaying an underlying impishness. Plus Douglas Hodge has true stage presence and a fantastic voice, simply wonderful.

Both Grandfathers are superb, Billy Royle as Grandfather George is brilliant with his Irish brogue and the twinkle in his eye, whilst Nigel Planer captures Grandpa Joe perfectly in a style reminiscent of Lionel Jeffries in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It makes you feel old when you look at Nigel Planer playing the quintessential British grandfather to remember him so vividly as hippy Neil in the Young Ones. Credit to Nigel’s fantastic acting skills and longevity.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical in London

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical Show in London

The show is split in to two acts with the first centred around Charlie’s family and the quest to find the elusive Golden ticket that will give the winner the all too eagerly anticipated tour of the mysterious Willy Wonka’s factory. I won’t spoil the twist but Willy Wonka only appears as Willy Wonka right at the end of the first act, his clever entrance together with the anticipation of what’s to come in the second act is exciting. However, without the stage presence of Willy Wonka in the first act the earlier scenes setting the scene probably take up too long, especially for younger members of the audience with shorter attention spans. There are no real memorable songs in the first act, sadly the ‘The Candyman’ a firm favourite from the film has been omitted and the big show-stopping number at the end of the first act is a little lack lustre.

The second act of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the musical doesn’t disappoint and is a roller-coaster ride through Willy Wonka’s factory staged with amazing effects. The second act seems all too short in comparison to the first and the Oompa Loompas are a highlight of the show. Although the song from the original film, Pure Imagination, is included, the ending seems to again lack a real show-stopping finale.

The song writing team of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, responsible for the award-winning musical Hairspray, have done a brilliant job in coming up with a score and series of songs that fit the show, as well as creating a real West End theatre show experience. Sadly for me though the show does lack a big catchy tune such as ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ or ‘Good Morning Baltimore’, previous hits of theirs. Perhaps the show’s songs will grow on me in time, and the fact that the score hasn’t been in the public domain it might take time for them to become instantly recognisable. In saying that, there are some terrific power ballads and quirky tunes associated with the children so perhaps it hits the mark in terms of the audience it is aimed at? However, I am not sure if ballads will be that popular for kids between 5 and 12?

This show is bound to be a firm favourite for children and family audiences and I would expect that there will be a rush for tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Saturday performances and during school holidays so book now for best tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tickets.