Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Musical ★★★ New Wimbledon Theatre | Jun 21 - Jul 1, 2023

Is it ever going to be possible to translate Roald Dahl’s magical story imbued with his quirky imagination to the stage? In this adaptation of Dahl’s somewhat creepy story, a Stygian gloom hangs over too much of the first act, and unfortunately the storytelling is somewhat choppy and lacking in humour. Haydn Court as Charlie gives a smashing performance and is definitely the star of the evening, and as Willy Wonka, Gareth Snook is excellent and works really hard. It is no small challenge to create the essential paradox and mystery of Willy Wonka. Despite having invented for children the purest and most luscious candies out of the sugar dream of his imagination, the man is really a misanthrope who has little patience for kids. Fortunately, however, Snook manages to avoid the 'Michael Jackson' undertones Johnny Depp brought to the character in Tim Burton’s 2005 film version. With the exception of "The Candy Man" and "Pure Imagination" imported from the 1971 film version, the musical numbers are far from memorable. After the interval, when we meet Willy Wonka and we’re inside the factory, the atmosphere changes and the production gains much-needed colour, mainly due to some glorious projections which fill the cavernous stage at New Wimbledon Theatre. The Oompa-Loompas are fun but underused. However, the squirrel is great! James Brining directs efficiently, but the company are not pressed by Emily Jane Boyle’s rather basic choreography. Squashing the grandparents into the tiny garret they all sleep in is the best element of Simon Higlett’s design. The essential question remains – were we transported to a world of "Pure Imagination?" In our case, I’m afraid the answer has to be not quite.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Johan Persson

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