Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Theatre , West End Theatre Royal Drury Lane , Covent Garden Until Saturday January 7 2017
Critics' choice
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(72 user reviews)
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1/5
© Matt Crockett

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

2/5
© Matt Crockett

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

3/5
© Johan Persson

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

4/5
© Johan Persson

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

5/5
© Johan Persson

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

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
Contact:
Address: Catherine St
London
WC2B 5JF
Transport: Tube: Covent Gdn
Price: £25-£90. Runs 2hrs 30mins
Event website: http://www.charlieandthechocolatefactory.com

Average User Rating

4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:31
  • 4 star:22
  • 3 star:11
  • 2 star:5
  • 1 star:3
LiveReviews|72
1 person listening
GeorgeX
1 of 1 found helpful
Tastemaker

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


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.

Ron
1 of 1 found helpful

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

Chris
1 of 2 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.

karen f

I absolutely LOVED this production! Having read the book and watched all the films, this did not disappoint at all. After the set design, which was incredible, Willy Wonka was definitely the star of the show and had me in stitches. Especially the 'rave' scene which shows how this show caters to all ages and included some very adult jokes without being noticed by the kids. Brilliant.

Louise S
Staff Writer

Slow to start but came alive especially the second half. Thought the scenery and props were amazing never seen a show which had so many room set changes they were done brilliantly.  The actors were very good but did not warm to any, usually I do especially the children having said that they cast really worked hard and was quite funny in parts. Ideal for light hearted family entertainment.

Jon F

The set design, sound, lighting and visual effects are really clever, funny and unpredictable. That can be par for the course in the modern musical but crucially this show achieves moving moments and narrative involvement: the combination of quirky design, terrific colour and a confident pace (first 20 minutes are cunningly low-key) compel you forward to the wonderful and mysterious final flourish.

The child actors are uniformly terrific and watchable and there are two outstanding performances: from Jonathan Slinger as Willy Wonka (fantastic line reading) and Josefina Gabrielle as Mrs. Teavee (has the best jokes and knocks them for six). The songs do their job with the lyrics coming out ahead of the music, but ultimately it’s the wildly imaginative look of the thing that stays with you.

My seven-year-old was rapt throughout, had lots of questions about the meaning of bits and found a couple of parts slightly scary.

If only all commercial theatre was as good as this.

Tez F

I loved the show! The production was fantastic,so attractive, colourful and wonderful. I have to admit the songs were not really stand out and only two (one being from the original film) were really good, but because the show was fantastic that didn't really matter to me- which I know may sound odd considering it's a musical. Also with that said I do have to say that the percussion were brilliant. 


Wonka and Veronica Salt were the two stand out performers for me. 


The show was funny, lively, visually capturing and magical. 

Sarah A

Loved it! Really liked all the special effects and the set. Kids thought it was amazing too.

Ros A
Tastemaker

Singularly the best set design I have ever seen in my entire life. For that alone, it's worth seeing. Most people will have read Roald Dahl's Charlie & The Chocolate Factory as children, as had I. I loved the book so much, I was a bit scared that this production would spoil my own memories of the book. Not so at all. Whoever designed the set is a genius. It feels like magic throughout, from the factory back drop, to Mike TV disappearing into a TV. It's everything I imagined as a child and more and it's flawlessly executed.


There wasn't a singular moment when I was bored in this production. It was funny, quick, exciting and I would recommend that absolutely everyone see this production. You can't not love it. 

Elisa R
Tastemaker

What a wonderful time we had! Awesome decor, great music but, don't expect this play to make you feel good about yourself: these 8 to 15-year-olds will put you to shame by displaying their immense talents! They're so much better than many actors and performers I've seen on stage or on screen lately. They can dance, they can sing and they can act. Great show!

VieveW
Tastemaker

Since childhood I have enjoyed both the Roald Dahl book and the original 1971 film, directed by Mel Stuart, over and over again. I'm not sure anyone could say they've never wanted to be a part of the magical world that is Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. For my birthday I was taken here as a treat and my expectations were not only met but exceeded. This was a wonderful display of theatrics, colour, stunning set design and brilliant acting directed by the talented Sam Mendes. From the moment the play starts, Charlie takes you on a journey of awe and excitement. On the night, Charlie was played by Zachary Loonie and he absolutely blew us away. 100% energy was met with 200% enthusiasm and he was just fantastic. This was echoed by all the cast and the performances. A personal favourite in the cast was the character of Violet Beauregard; played by the beautiful Psalms-Nissi Myer-Reid. I particularly liked the fact that there was a range of songs explored throughout the musical. Jonathan Slinger (Mr Wonka) makes a grand effort in 'Pure Imagination', whilst the newer songs such as 'More of him to love' didn't quite hit the mark for me personally. The set displays were the star features of the night. The vivid colours and designs were simply breathtaking. Whether you were sat up high or down near the stage, everyone was able to access the beautiful imagery. From the desolate and bleak surroundings of Charlie's home (including the pushbike wind up television) through to the magic of the Willy Wonka factory; every set is ridiculously on point. This was a magical theatre experience for me and like they say, I definitely stepped into a world of pure imagination!!! Beware...the theatre is filled with scrumdiddlyumptious snacks (pun intended). From themed candyfloss flavours to sweets and slushies, so definitely bring some spare change! This was an amazing night out and is suitable for absolutely anyone. Whether you've grown up with Charlie, like me, or have never seen or read the book, go and see this! Time Out Offers are currently selling great seats for 17.50, so there is no snozzberry excuse!

Poppy L
Tastemaker

I had high expectations during the build up to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, however was a little disappointed when I finally saw the production. Unlike other shows such as Matilda and Wicked who have something for all ages and a certain level of complexity, this was most definitely aimed at young children and at certain points it edged on being cheesy. The sets were wonderful and the acting slick, but I would only recommend seeing this show if you are taking relatively young children.

Sarah J
tastemaker

This performance makes you immediately miss your childhood and also gives you sudden cravings for chocolate (so my first piece of advice would be to go to the theatre equipped with a decent supply of chocolate!). I was lucky enough to be treated to this performance as an impromptu birthday treat, and we got on the door matinee tickets for £25 each (centre row B - 2 rows from the front of the stage) about 30 mins before the performance was due to start. The main performances from Charlie, his grandfather and Willy Wonka himself were amazing - and the singing and dancing were really spectacular. My favourite part was at the start of the second half.. but I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it. I couldn't stop smiling throughout the performance, and the special effects were definitely more than I expected. 

bext45
Tastemaker

This is a good all rounder for the whole family. The music and book won't blow you away but expect to be dazzled by visual treats, some super talented kids and a strong ensemble cast. We took a five year old for his first West End experience and it didn't disappoint. He was utterly captivated for two and half hours. There's lots of singing, dancing and scene changes full of colour and imagination. Particular highlights included the squirrels (very well done) and the Oompa Loompas (a conundrum well thought out). 

If I had one criticism which affected the enjoyment for me it is that sometime it was very difficult to understand what the cast were saying when they were singing. This could do with some tightening up. It's a well loved story so you won't lose the plot but you may raise your eyebrows a bit. 

Naomi
Tastemaker

Without a doubt, one of the best musicals I have ever seen. The cast were incredible, perfect even, whilst the set was an absolute work of art. We got cheap cheap tickets last minute and mid-week, only to be upgraded to the front row on arrival! The main actor of Willy Wonka was an absolute stand-out masterpiece and it was hard to believe that the incredibly talented children could possibly be so young. The songs added a punch to the already amazing acting and made it an all round audio and visual masterpiece. I would go again in a heartbeat. This musical is millimetres away from perfection and outshone only by Matilda!

Chelsey G

Great show - my 5 yr old was enthralled the whole time & it was her first musical to attend!

Alison D

This was absolutely incredible! An absolute must. This has now become one of my favourites.

Kemi O

Wonderful wonderful production! I went in with no expectations whatsoever, but t I wasn't prepared for what the stella staging, wonderful acting and incredible special effects. It's true that there weren't  many songs from the original movie, but I think that the fact that the production was so amazing despite that, is testament to what a great job they did, Probably one of the better musicals I have seen,

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
Tastemaker

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
Tastemaker

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.

KirstyAnne87
Tastemaker

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
Tastemaker

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.  

sp

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
Tastemaker

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!

Tom
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
moderator

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.

ARCHNA P

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.

ceri.bird

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.

Alli

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.

Amaury

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!

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