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REVIEW: ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical’


Nov 10, 2023

ROALD Dahl's tale of mystery and the limitless possibilities of imagination has again been re- imagined for the stage.

From West End success to long runs on Broadway, the timeless story is a firm family favourite.

Now it's back on a current UK tour courtesy of a lively Leeds Playhouse co-production directed by James Brining.

We already have film versions, too, from Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp to the forthcoming 2023 release.

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There is even an adaptation, of sorts, for a Christmas TV ad for a supermarket.

So welcome back Charlie. Reading, Basingstoke, Berkshire

Roald Dahl was always a storyteller with an edge and this version is based on his much-loved best-seller with all its moral directions and strange layers.

This time, back screen projections inspire the imaginations of young and old with impressive multi-coloured video film.

It centres on a competition to win one of the five golden tickets for entry into the enigmatic Willy Wonka's re-opening of his confectionary factory.

One of the hopefuls is Charlie Bucket – played on tour by four talented actors.

On press night, Harmony Raine Riley was outstanding in the demanding role – a soaring voice and personality to match as she lit up the grey junk-yard set featuring the dysfunctional family cramped into a wobbly house.

We only get to meet Gareth Snook's Willy Wonka at the end of Act 1 preparing the audience for surprises to come after the interval.

Gareth has a fine voice but I did miss out on some of his funny asides – maybe the volume could be upped a notch so you don't lose out on the witty dialogue.

When we enter his factory – emblazoned with a huge W – there are plenty of symbolic doors to go through and we are treated to some wonderful video technology.

There are laugh-out-loud moments notably the Squirrel room – which is delightfully nutty.

Charlie is joined on her adventure by granddad played with gusto by Michael D'Cruze.

The scenes of chocolate waterfalls and huge gobstoppers turns the stage into a sweet shop.

And visually, it was a revelation to see the Oompa Loompas here portrayed like sinister robots from Dr Who.

Expect the unexpected, indeed.

The second half in this two and a half hour production certainly has more pace than the plot-setting first half.

An orchestra do a top class job in the pit And there major highlights – a couple of familiar favourites from the 1971 film – Candy Man and Pure Imagination.

These classics are supported by the newer and less catchy numbers.

But all the songs move the narrative along till we reach a joyous finale.

This touring show is like opening a big theatrical selection box – something for everyone and a memory from all our childhoods.

Verdict Visual treat and Sweet Dreams 4 Stars

It is on until November 26.

For tickets, click here

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