Whether it be the book or either of the two films, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a classic story that we all know and love. The musical adaption has been successfully running in the West End for almost two years now. I had wanted to make a trip to see this show, and with the recent cast changes, I was eager to finally make the visit.
Based on the novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tells the story of Charlie Bucket, a young boy growing up in an impoverished family scrapping to make ends meet. With an eagerness to meet the amazing Willy Wonka after hearing stories from his grandparents, he feels his chance has finally arrived when a competition comes out to find a golden ticket within a chocolate bar, winning a tour of Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
I will be honest; I was expecting to see an adaption of the movie, with Veruca Salt’s ‘I Want It Now,’ or Charlie and Grandpa Joe burping themselves down from the ceiling fans. This version, however, creates a new score centered around the the original story; with the exception of Mrs. Teavee’s 1950s fashion sense, everything seemed to have a modern day twist to it. And while I was slightly hoping to hear an Oompa Loompa medley somewhere, this newer version gave these little guys a heaping addition of energy; filled with neon lights, tap dancing, and flat screens.
Jonathan Slinger has taken the lead of Willy Wonka. I had the pleasure of seeing him previously as Officer Lockstock in Urinetown, and was immediately captured by his performance. This night was no different; Jonathan has an incredible presence on the stage, and always seems to be able to take a role and make it into his own. His sarcastic mannerisms, slight humor, and crazed wit were all put in place as Wonka.
Noah Crump was the young actor in the role of Charlie Bucket on this night, and he was an absolute joy to watch. Adorable and energetic, it was overly evident how much he loved being on the stage, and the ability for a kid to take on the leading role at such a young age is always quite impressive.
The other children, Ella Tweed (Veruca Salt), Pslams-Nissi Myers-Reid (Violet Beauregarde), and Vincent Finch (Augustus Gloop) all took the stage by storm – whether they needed to be overly demanding, loud, or hungry, each child threw themselves into their characters. Dylan Standen stood out as Mike Teavee; his sharp dancing was perfectly aligned with the aggressive character, holding Wonka up at (video-game controller) gun-point upon meeting him. This was also his last night in this show; there were tears and hugs from the entire cast, as well as an extra standing ovation from the crowd.
Sam Mendes’s production captures all the magic of what Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory might be like in our minds, and with the sheer scale and detailed designs, it is perfectly adapted for the stage. It truly is a show for all walks of life to enjoy, and it is sure to keep audiences coming back for more – that is, more musical magic AND more chocolate.
Reviewed by Caity O’Shaughnessy
Photo: Matt Crockett