REVIEW: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY celebrates four years in the West End

Jonathan Slinger in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Images by Matt Crockett 3.jpgThis week Charlie and the Chocolate Factory celebrated its fourth and final year in London’s West End at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane ahead of its closure after Christmas, to make room of 42nd Street which is set to open in March 2017.

Based on the 1964 children’s book by the legendary Roald Dahl, the story was turned into the much loved, cult classic feature film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder, in 1971. The 2005 remake, starring Johnny Depp was a huge success, taking over $450 million at the box office (compared to just $4 million of the original 1971 production). In recent weeks it has been reported that Warner Brothers have acquired the rights to make a new feature film based around Willy Wonka himself.

The musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opened in London’s West End in 2013 where it received good reviews, mostly for its design and staging but less so for the new music that has been written for the show. The Broadway version is set to open in March 2017 with a new director on board and the inclusion of more songs from the original 1971 film.

Jonathan Slinger makes a great Willy Wonka and is my favourite to have played the role in the shows four year run. Jasna Ivir always brings a smile to my face when I see her on stage and she is as wonderful as Mrs Gloop as she was when the show first opened. The whole cast do an admirable job in the show but musically it isn’t the greatest. Mostly made up of new songs, there are some good ones (Almost Nearly Perfect, Don’t Ya Pinch Me Charlie and of course the classic song from the original film Pure Imagination) but a lot of the songs are just filler.

I was releived to see that the great glass elevator has been redesigned to float from side to side on the stage rather than trying to come out into the audience on a wobbly crane arm  (something which always screamed a health and safety issue for me when I watched it). On the whole the set design is well done, bright and colourful and sure to keep the attention of children with Oompa Loompas and giant nut-cracking squirrels a plenty.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a good family night out at the theatre, where kids can gorge themselves on sweets (served in noisy paper bags), enjoy the colourful set design and dream of being one day given their own chocolate factory by a strange and eccentric man. Parents may watch on slightly disappointed that it doesn’t really reflect the cult classic film they remember from their childhood but none the less it ticks a few boxes for people of all ages.

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Matt Crockett

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY plays at Theatre Royal Drury Lane until 7 January 2017. Get tickets