Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  • Theatre
  • West End
Critics' choice
6 Love It
© Matt Crockett

Jonathan Slinger as Willy Wonka in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'

© Matt Crockett

Jonathan Slinger and cast in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'

© Johan Persson

Charlie (Oliver Finnegan) and the Bucket family in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'.

© Johan Persson

Charlie (Jake Poolman) and the Bucket family in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'.

© Johan Persson

Charlie (Jake Poolman) and the Bucket family in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'.

Theatre Royal Drury Lane , Covent Garden Until Saturday December 3 2016
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Sam Mendes's Roald Dahl adaptation is a sweet night out

A luminous roller-coaster ride of colour, spectacle and fantastical happenings, Sam Mendes’s stage version of Roald Dahl’s adored children’s book is still as entertaining as ever, two years and a couple of casts down the line. And though a lot of that comes down to the show’s garishly-hued stage tricks, it’s also due to the main attraction. In David Greig’s adaptation that’s not the eponymous Charlie Bucket, but eccentric factory owner Mr Willy Wonka.

Following in the footsteps of the cuddlier Douglas Hodge, RSC stalwart Jonathan Slinger is now the third Wonka. He has a superb subversive touch that I’d wager Dahl would heartily approve of. He spits and roars, huffs and growls his way through Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman’s bland songs (only ‘Pure Imagination’, lifted from the 1971 film, really makes an impact). There’s something enchanting and also a little scary about Slinger as he channels everyone from a toned-down Tim Curry in ‘Rocky Horror’ to croaky crooner Tom Waits. His cheshire cat smile is both welcoming and disconcerting and it’s not until the very end that either you or Charlie can be entirely sure you can trust him. Which for this particular character, is pretty perfect.

In Greig’s taut, naughtily funny script, Wonka doesn’t properly arrive until just before the second half, which means the early scenes, set in the slum home of the Buckets feel a little drawn out. The plot is all set up thoroughly, though, and designer Mark Thompson’s clever way of introducing all the golden ticket winners via a huge TV at the back of the stage brings some much needed vibrancy.

The second half is an absolute riot of colour and ingenious staging, as Wonka leads us through a series of set pieces in the weird rooms of the chocolate factory where, one by one, the naughty children are disposed of. Pretty much all the sets are a scrumptious treat – from a nut-sorting room populated by squirrels to the inventing room complete with emotionally unstable robots. The sets are brought to life by the army of little oompa loompas, whose numbers, choreographed with natty innovation by Peter Darling, are hilariously kooky.

Though the show suffers from a gaping hole in the back story of the strange Wonka, Slinger, despite his more edgy idiosyncrasies, does bring a real sense of humanity to the character. He’s a man clearly moved by Charlie’s politeness, thoughtfulness and caring, which makes the final bond between the two a little more believable than perhaps it was with Hodge. Here’s a Willy Wonka whose hidden heart is as soft and as a fluffy as a marshmallow pillow.


Venue name: Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Address: Catherine St
Transport: Tube: Covent Gdn
Price: £25-£90. Runs 2hrs 30mins
Event website:
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Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:23
  • 4 star:17
  • 3 star:8
  • 2 star:5
  • 1 star:3
2 people listening
1 of 1 found helpful

Don't get confused that this play is only for children. I had seen the movie in the past but I didn't like it - so I didn't had so big expectations from the theatrical play. But, I really enjoyed that. The lighting and set design is just amazing. Having seen many musicals/plays in West End, I would definitely say that this theatrical version of the movie has so many special effects, costumes, different set designs that you are going to be amazed!

Steve  H
1 of 1 found helpful

Excellent Musical! All kids perform very well! We had nothing to do one night so on am impulse we purchased two last minute balcony tickets online two hrs before the show. When we collected our tickets at the theatre, they put us into the stall 5th row. A very good deal and I enjoyed the night very much. PS: Kids!! They do have a lot of Willy Wonka chocolate and sweets, and ice-cream selling inside the theatre, so don’t eat anything before you go!

Visited April 2015

1 of 1 found helpful

Good performances, great sets but lacks the songs you want from the film and the songs written for it an weak and forgettable. A musical with poor music is rather a waste of stage. Go see Matlida instead.

Emma bolt
1 of 1 found helpful

I have seen a fair few musicals and was extremely excited at the prospect of going to see one of my favourite childhood films on the big stage,however I was feeling a tad deflate Once I was out of the theatre I felt very uncomfortable in places an felt the focus on how poor the buckets were was overwhelming I almost felt like I was watching a bbc children in need appeal I didn't enjoy the songs as I felt they lacked punch , with the noticeable absence of the hugely recognisable Oompa Loompa song and golden ticket it didn't give me the feel good feeling that I was expecting. That being said our Charlie was fantastic for a 9 year old boy he held the stage and made Charlie his. Also hats off to the set designers as the set and effects were amazing.

Edward Franklin
1 of 1 found helpful

I spent most of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' wondering why Sam Mendes agreed to direct it. One can only conclude that he was on board before the score was available to him, because one listen would surely be enough to tell you that Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman lack a fundamental sympathy with the Dahlian sensibility that is so essential to any adaptation of his work. It's not that the score is bad. Though there's nothing here to rival the songwriting team's work on 'Hairspray' or the television series 'Smash', there are some tuneful numbers and a handful of smart lyrics that might work in a different show. But not this show; not Dahl. It's too relentlessly optimistic, too mainstream, and Mendes' doesn't do a lot to help by simply unveiling gargantuan set after gargantuan set with little in the way of genuine ingenuity. Perhaps underpinning all of this is the simple fact that 'Charlie...' was always going to be a bugger to adapt. It feels harsh to blame librettist David Greig for the ever-increasing sense of boredom given that essentially he's just being faithful - one by one, kids find golden tickets, then we move into the factory and one by one, kids make mistakes that get them into all kinds of sticky trouble. In literary form, with Dahl's fantastical descriptions, it doesn't feel dull; onstage, there's little to be done to hide the repetitive mechanics of the structure. Among the cast, Douglas Hodge does a decent job at fleshing out Wonka, hinting at the darkness that lurks behind the gleaming eyes of the chocolate magician, whilst Nigel Planer is all geriatric charm. In the supporting role of Mr. Salt, Clive Carter puts in a particularly strong turn, and his number 'When Veruca Says' is probably the wittiest of the bunch. But they can do little to disguise the fact that Mendes and designed Mark Thompson have essentially turned to spectacle to attempt to cover up the weakness of the material they're working with. At a matinee performance full of kids, the biggest gasp of surprise and wonder came when Charlie opened his Wonka bar to discover a golden ticket, and one can't help but think that - unknowingly - these hundreds of pre-teens understood what a team of professionals couldn't - that sometimes magic requires a grandiosity of scale far less than it does a knack for storytelling.

1 of 1 found helpful

Pleasant...but totally unmemorable. The book and score are a real let-down.

terrie m

We had a brilliant night out as part of our trip to London. My boyfriend isn't too keen on theatre shows but even he loved it. I would definitely recommend for all ages. It was such a great night.

Anita R

Amazing sets, great costumes. A lot of fun. Shame they did not have more of the original songs.

First scene a bit drawn out. Children and oompahs superb. Loved it when I recognised a song.

New songs ok but not memorable. Charlie was very very good. 14 Jan pm.

Worth going to see and lovely to watch.

Camille S

 I went there with my boyfriend not really knowing what to expect. As there were a lot of kids in the audience we thought we might be disappointed. In fact, it was an amazing performance: great actors (both kids and adults), creative adaptations, mind-blowing sets, beautiful music, memorable energy. We recommended this musical to everyone!

Richard N

It's visually very appealing with some truly innovative set pieces and staging, but if you want to see a good Roald Dahl adaptation, go see Matilda. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory works much better as a theme park ride. It's a ride certainly, but there are significant parts where the energy just dips and you get a little tired. Great as a book, not so great as a musical. Roald Dahl's imagination still shines through to save the day though, so you can always count on the fascinating ideas to keep yours eyes on the stage.

ashley c

The play is pretty good and you will have an enjoyable night out. The problem however is whilst the play is not totally aimed at children you will be surrounded by children in the audience. This dampened my enjoyment a bit but overall the play was good.

Nathan G

This was an enjoyable play however it doesn't deserve the great reviews it currently gets IMHO. Firstly, the theatre and set are amazing. Unfortunately our showing experienced some technical difficulties resulting in a 15 Min delay. Yet this doesn't retrack from its brilliant design and seemless transition between parts. In addition, the costume design was great and meticulous attention to detail was apparent.

The problems arise with casting, choreography and twisted versions of songs. Willy wonka is not as mystical or engaging as he should be and the oompas, ahh not sure where to start. One postive, the children are fantastic and really give it there all. The choreography is alike a junior school play and finally the songs are mostly forgettable...

I had hoped for more and to come away whistling some of those great child hood tunes but this was far from inspiring or memorable.


Being a child of the 90's I grew up with a very solid picture of Willy Wonka, the Oompa Loompas and the songs that made the Gene Wilder film version one of my all time favourite 'filmsicals'. 

It is no wonder that the new West End show failed to live up to and surpass my chocolate heaven. The songs -boring, Willy Wonka - forgetful, the children-unimaginative and the Oompa Loompas - well - lets not get into that butchering of a classic icon!

The set however is wonderful and i still enjoyed the show- people will have differing opinions on this show I'm sure but as a piece of theatre, it did not work for me

Louise H

Definitely leaves you with a grin on your face! Insanely talented children and incredible set designs make this performance really enjoyable and will leave you wishing you too could visit Mr Wonka’s factory. Mr Wonka himself is a little glum, but the children's antics more than make up for this.  

Shireen P

When last year when all the school kids was there didn't enjoy myself it was so noisy at that time when I when there

Tara P

Charlie was a fun show, and seemed to be pitched at the right level for children and adults. The production added some originality to a fairly well-known plot, and the staging was inventive and entertaining – the Oompa Loompas and squirrels being particular highlights.

It’s a good family evening out. I would say that the “wow factor” is not as evident as with classics such as The Lion King, but the script, singing and acting are all solidly good. I wouldn’t pay more than approximately £30 a ticket, but then I’m not really the target audience. 

Fern A

absolutely loved this show! the production was amazing and they really brought it to life on stage! Also lots of chocolate to buy in the foyer which was great!

moderatorStaff Writer

Took my 10 year old daughter and she had the time of her life. Completely mesmerised by the set and the various characters, along with the music. I think it was made all the better by her having read the book beforehand. It also took me back to my childhood - a little piece of magic. Great family entertainment, and it's possible to get tickets for mid week shows without too much fuss. Plenty of options for having a quick bite beforehand - we went to Balthazaar which is literally just around the corner. Would definitely recommend both for kids and adults, Rohal Dahl really was a genius.

Emile C

Very fun show, brought back many childhood memories, all of the actors performances was good and found the price reasonable for the seats in the grand circle. The added Willy Wonka bars being sold was a great addition to the overall experience. This show is a must to see!!

Tom W

Great family entertainment; some of the stage effects are particularly impressive. In hindsight i'd have booked the matinee as it ran quite late for my 10 year old daughter on a school night.


Amazing Show

Took 6 very excited children who were enthralled and amazed.

Beautiful theatre with lovely architecture which certainly added to the tone of the evening, although a little more leg room would have been appreciated.

All the actors were amazing and great hospitality too.

Great evening -  highly recommended.

Marianna B. F

Amazing musical that combines great acting with beautiful  audio-visual effects. The production was fantastic, the band top-notch. The theatre is also very beautiful (oldest working play house in the world). As the show was not fully booked, just before the show a nice gentlemen offer my husband and I to be upgraded for a better seat. We asked for a seat with more leg-space (my husband is really tall). We were taken to one of the boxes on the theatre. That was so nice!

Abbi D

Really great show, the set is what really gave it the wow factor. The child actors were amazing too and the whole thing was enjoyable for kids and adults.

Felicity James

I actually rather liked the songs, though Pure Imagination is clearly heads above the rest. But I've been singing Must Be Believed To Be Seen all week. The child stars are fantastic, and the lyrics/conversation are very funny. And the touches of magic are absolutely perfect. I love that the fate of the children is also not sugar coated (unlike the films, when they are miraculously ok). I like a darker, slightly on edge Wonka. Much more Dahl.


This show was fantastic. The perfomers were so professional the singing was amazing and the stage effects were brilliant. A must to to see show.


Such a great show! The set was absolutely amazing and the children's performances were brilliant too. The whole show was very entertaining and I would recommend for children and adults.

Jenni Evans

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was amazing one of the best new musicals I have seen for a while. The sets and costumes were awesome. Some fantastic performances from the children that really made me laugh. The sighs were catchy - me and my nephew have been humming them to ourselves ever since. It defiantly has all the elements you are looking for when comparing the film without being an exact copy.


Simply awesome, fantastically surprising, at any levels : actors' performs, stage, musicians and scenario ! We had smiled all the night, even after the music hall, and I recommend it to everyone, from children to elderly people ! Enjoy !

Heather Parker

A dark scrumdiddlyumptious delight. From beginning to end the show deliverer end at every turn. Whilst the songs are instantly forgettable, the sets certainly weren't. Much praised has been heaped on them and the technology used and rightly so. The cast were note perfect and I really hadn't expected to laugh quite as much as I diid. The ending is magical. Children will be enthral led by it all,. It really is an experience you shouldn't miss.

Amber Brouns

This is a truly amazing musical! The music is fun and the vocals are flawless, the decors are mindblowing and the special effects are true jaw-droppers! This is a musical that you have to see, whether you are an adult or a child. I had a great time!


i was on the 26th dec. the design was the best thing in the show. great story but in this musical all was slowly and unhappy'. not good songs and no develop in stag/. poor charliy


I went to London on the 20th Dec to see Charlie and the chocolate factory. My honest opinion was the staging was amazing but there was only 1 original song. I missed the original songs!! Charlie had a paper round in the original, he didn't work on a dump. We did spot Sarah Cox their, I wonder what her thoughts were. I would give it 7/10

Amy M

"Choc full of fun!" was the claim on the posters and I certainly felt like a big kid right from the moment I entered the theatre. Having watched a recent C4 documentary on the show, myself and another self confessed 'techy' (though he actually knows what he's talking about...) just had to go and check this show out, so much show that we even purchased restricted view tickets. I have loved this book/film/concept ever since I was little and the musical certainly did not disappoint. Whilst some of the classic moments in the film don't quite live up to the original, the clever twists, fantasmagorical use of tech and talented cast succeed in absorbing you into the chocolate filed world of magic and song. I don't suspect that this show will be up there amongst the great classics of the musical world, but if you have kids, or just want a trip down memory lane then a visit to Drury Lane is definitely worth it. I challenge you to count the ways in which they fool you into thinking that the oompalumpas are real sized - it must be believed to be seen!

Erin Bolton

This is going to sound really cheesy - this show was magical. The great glass elevator was a splendid spectacular showpiece. Tiny-weeny Charlie Bucket was astonishing; he looked so vulnerable yet performed like a pro. Better than the film with the stupid golden goose - we need squirrels to get rid of the bad nuts. They were magnificent squirrels. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

George A

This show must definitely must be seen to be believed how good it actually is.. The show has everything, amazing songs, and the set is mind blowing.. I really want to see it again, and hopefully will in the coming months.. Another hit like Matilda!!!!


One of the best recent musicals i have seen. Amazing talented young artisits. All the effects were incredible and well put together. I had to go and buy some chocolate In the interval because of the effect it had on me!!! Would definetely reccomend it, especially if you want to take your family on a delicious adventure.


Great musical, however due to it not being based on the film version of the story I was slightly disappointed by the lack of umpa lumpa involvement and songs. Aside from the the singing and backdrops were great, and the way they introduced the children who won the tickets was very entertaining!

Line Bech

It should be noted that first of all my friend and I sat in seats with restricted viewing. But despite of that I enjoyed the show immensely. I was blown away by the child actors especially - they were just outstanding! I thought the first act was a bit long - mostly because I was really looking forward to seeing the Chocolate Factory sets I think, but still. I did however love the grandparents' number VERY much and thought the Buckett's shack was a beautiful set. I also loved the introductions of the Golden Ticket winners - they're just all around hilarious. The second act was great! The sets were truly fantastic and the Oompa Loompa numbers were all TOTALLY AWESOME. I cried during Pure Imagination, so yeah. The fact that we had restricted seating did take some of it off, I'd say and I think I would have been more engaged in the show if I had a seat where I could see the actors more. I couldn't see their facial expression most of the time. I wouldn't recognize the man playing Willy Wonka if I saw him on the street. But that's not really a criticism, because I chose my own seats, but just like advice so you know what you're getting if you go for the cheapest tickets. The show was fantastic overall I think. You truly got the feeling that these were some talented people who had come together all around - cast, crew, orchestra, everything. My favourite parts were Pure Imagination, the child actors and the sets.

Craig Groves

Knowing that this show was going to be a hot I assured myself that purchasing tickets when I arrive in London would be a longshot so I booked way in advance at a costly price, with weeks of excitement setting close and close in I arrived in London the day I was due to see Charlie and as I was queuing for another great musical I came across a nice chap that decides to express his full disc race and disappointment in seeing Charlie and the chocolate factory and ensured me to enter with "Low Expectations". So for the rest of the day I was unsure how it could seem so popular and yet have so many bad points from just one man. Well the time had come and I entered the theatre to see that, although there are real wonka bars in production they did not sell at the theatre which I feel could make the experience that little more memorable. The show began with a backstory of Mr Wonka And then the whole golden ticket cam with great surprise, the concept of how each golden ticket winner is revealed was truly amusing, the music that accompanied that character was fitting and the storyline/lyric were try to the original. I also loved how they worked on the stage set and the ways they manage to "rid" the children from the factory. The whole team from cast, crew and production have done the Roald Dahl. I genuinely liked this show and thought it was worth the money I paid. Bravo!! X


Love it! Amazing voice from Charlie and the performers! Jonny Depp was indeed too fantastic who has set an icon/ image of Wonka, but still, great performance from Douglas! Cool stage design! Love the songs! I do love the novel and film, but the musical has definitely worked out especially with the new representation of Violet Beauregarde and the Dad! The dance with Mike Teves was also unbelievable! Love the electronic style! But ticket price was pretty high though.

Dean Taylor

Sad to say me and wife thought the show was very poor, the music a huge let down, cast weak in places, more cabaret than theatre, wish i had read the reviews first, waste of money, so sad great opportunity to produce a classic , the producers should go and watch the film again . That bad i fell asleep.Why do productions mess around and think they can re write a classic. Should have given it to Andrew Lloyd Webber.


Memorable, magic and exciting. An experience that an adult becomes a child.


We took my daughter for her 10th birthday and her younger sister 8. Both children absolutely loved the show and thought it was as good as Matilda. would recommend!


It appears that the whole budget went on the (admittedly fantastic) set. The music was a let-down and Wonka was more cabaret performer than dark and mysterious chocolatier. However, the main criticism is that the performers all spoke too fast, particularly in the songs. The kids' songs were almost unintelligible in some places and I'm sure I only caught about 20% of the words.

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