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.
Average User Rating
4 / 5
- 5 star:36
- 4 star:25
- 3 star:11
- 2 star:6
- 1 star:3
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
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.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is brilliant. The second half is as crazy and colourful as the old movie, but the first half spends time giving the back story of Charlie and his loving-but-dirt-poor family that makes his emergence from grey poverty into the madcap world of Wonka so much more poignant and startling. The music is great, the humour comes off well, and the story trips along. It's definitely not just for kids - us two adults thoroughly enjoyed it.
Some big pluses: the child actors were all excellent (which is not always the case) and the boy who played Charlie was particularly impressive – dancing and singing with a skill that adult actors would find hard; the set design was magnificent; and the ompah-loompahs were excellent - took a while to work out how they danced the way they did.
Can't really think of any downsides... Go and see it!
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
One of the best things I've seen in a long time. The production values are brilliant - the factory set pieces are amazing feats of imagination, fun and engineering. Hodge is a great Wonka - very underplayed and subtle which I quite liked. I went in a group of adults and we felt like children. They really ramp up the excitement and tease the reveals of the things we're all waiting for - the oompa loompahs and the factory itself. Just GO - don't read any reviews or look at any production shots. It's a show that plays on the mystery of the factory. If it's this slick as a preview, then i can't wait to see it once all the kinks are worked out.
Really underwhelming. Admittedly saw a preview and things will improve, but it will need more than some minor adjustments. Songs go in one ear and out the other, with only Pure Imagination sticking out as it's the only well known song. Hodge's Wonka lacks any pizzazz and the factory (apart from amazing projections) leaves you feeling cold with Oompa Loompas feeling like they're from a cheap panto. However the kids are amazing and feel like the most real characters on the stage. Hopefully things will improve during previews but it will take an awful lot to make it a classic show.