CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY – THE MUSICAL – Theatre Royal Plymouth


8 JUNE 2023


2**

The original 2013 London production of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, based on Roald Dahl’s most famous book for children, offered up spectacular sets, great special effects, a group of young actors as the Golden Ticket Winners, quirky and fun Oompa Loompas and a Willy Wonka with huge charisma. This new touring production offers none of these.

To those who have not seen another version of the show it may be perfectly acceptable, but the changes made and the corners cut make this appear like some kind of discounted production.

A perennial bestseller, the book (along with Dahl’s other works) hit the headlines recently when it was revealed it would undergo re-writing to, seemingly, eliminate anything which might cause offence – the words ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ have been culled for instance – Augustus Gloop is now just described as ‘enormous’ – which in this production he certainly isn’t – why?

For some reason the gender of Charlie has been changed (in some performances) – there is no reason given – though inclusivity appears to be the name of the game here. Charlie appears to be costumed most of the time in the colours of the inclusive LGBTQ+ Pride flag. When Mrs Bucket is on stage she signs what she says and others respond accordingly – it is a mystery to me why this isn’t consistent through the whole show – there may be a very good reason, but without one being evident, it looks like tokenism.

Charlie is played by an actor of the correct age, the other four children are played by adults – it doesn’t work, however hard the actors try to disguise their true age. It jars badly. In a recent production of ‘Bugsy Malone’ the main characters were all played by children with some adults supporting them, that did work – this fails.

The original production mixed projections with huge sets – in this version, when Willy Wonka introduces the Chocolate Room it is met with a wall of silence as it is just projection – and not great ones at that. Magical this show is not. The great glass elevator – well, do we really need to see the wires hoisting it up? Where is any sense of illusion? London had the lift on a hidden ‘arm’ which reached out over the audience…. What we have in this production was pathetic.

And the Oompa Loompas have become faceless, charmless, sinister robots –a hugely misguided production decision.

Amelia Minto does well as Charlie and Michael D’Cruze is most impressive as Grandpa Joe – his performance is spot on and, to my mind, steals the show. Good contributions too from Christopher Howell who looks to be channelling the Donald Trump look as Mr Salt and Kate Milner Evans as Mrs Gloop – both double as one of Charlie’s grandparents.

A fine performer for sure, Gareth Snook, certainly makes an impressive Willy Wonka – though the role only appears after an hour has passed. I did, however, find his approach to the character too aggressive and without much of a softer side – there was no glint in the eye. In his programme note, director, James Brining says “The role of Willy Wonka is now established as one of the greats in the musical theatre firmament….” Really? Sorry, but I think that is nonsense – it is a good role certainly, but it is a one-hour role in a show which has never had huge success.

The show has been re-written, songs have gone in and out, as have characters – the original saw Charlie being brought up by Mr Bucket. None of the changes appear to be for the good of the show. The music itself, with the occasional nod to the 1970’s film starring Gene Wilder, is ok, but largely unmemorable. The choreography and direction lack the inventiveness which could have been offered and is disappointing.

This is a thoroughly underwhelming and charmless show which is neither magical nor thrilling. Some of the production decisions are woefully misguided and apparent subliminal messaging throughout is completely out of place and unnecessary. Can’t quite remember when I have been so disappointed by a production. If you love ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ don’t waste your money,  stick to reading the book again and use your own imagination; this show won’t add anything except frustration at a wasted opportunity.


CAST & CREATIVES

WILLY WONKA – GARETH SNOOK

CHARLIE BUCKET – AMELIA MINTO

GRANDPA JOE – MICHAEL D’CRUZE

GRANDPA GEORGE/MR SALT – CHRISTOPHER HOWELL

GRANDMA JOSEPHINE/MRS GLOOP – KATE MILNER-EVANS

GRANDMA GEORGINA/MRS BEAUREGARDE – EMILY WINTER

MRS BUCKET/MRS TEAVEE – LEONIE SPILSBURY

AUGUSTUS GLOOP – ROBIN SIMOES DA SILVA

VERUCA SALT – EMMA ROBOTHAM-HUNT

VIOLET BEAUREGARDE – MARISHA MORGAN

MIKE TEAVEE – TEDDY HINDE

MRS PRATCHETT – VICTORIA NICOL

JERRY – EWAN GILLES

CHEERY – LUCY HUTCHISON


WRITER – ROALD DAHL

BOOK WRITER – DAVID GREIG

COMPOSER – MARC SHAIMAN

LYRICIST – SCOTT WITTMAN

DIRECTOR – JAMES BRINING

SET & COSTUME DESIGN – SIMON HIGLETT

MUSICAL DIRECTOR – ELLEN CAMPBELL

CHOREOGRAPHER – EMILY JANE BOYLE

LIGHTING DESIGNER – TIM MITCHELL

SOUND DESIGNER – MIKE WALKER

VIDEO DESIGNER – SIMON WAINWRIGHT

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *