When Charlie wins a golden ticket to the weird and wonderful Wonka Chocolate
Factory, it’s the chance of a lifetime to feast on the sweets he’s always
dreamed of. But beyond the gates astonishment awaits, as down the sugary
corridors, and amongst the incredible edible delights, the five lucky winners
discover not everything is as sweet as it seems.
Roald Dahl’s deliciously dark tale of young Charlie Bucket and the mysterious
confectioner Willy Wonka comes to life in a brand new West End musical directed
by Academy Award® winner Sam Mendes.
Featuring ingenious stagecraft, the wonder of the captivating, almost 50 year
old, original story is brought to life with music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by
Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, with a book by award-winning playwright and
adaptor David Greig, set and costume designs by Mark Thompson and choreography
by Peter Darling.
Producers Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures, Neal Street Productions and Kevin
McCormick are pleased to confirm that from 19th May 2014, Barry James will play
the role of Grandpa Joe.
(pictured above, photo credit: Marcus Dawes-REX), Alex
Jennings will play Willy Wonka.
Josefina Gabrielle will play Mrs Teavee. Richard Dempsey and Kirsty Malpass will play Charlie’s parents Mr and
Mrs Bucket. Other cast members include Clive Carter (Mr Salt), Jasna Ivir (Mrs
Gloop), Paul J Medford (Mr Beauregarde), Billy Boyle (Grandpa George), Roni Page
(Grandma Josephine) and Myra Sands (Grandma Georgina) will all remain in the
cast. New ensemble members include: Dan Cooke, Divine Cresswell, Connor Dowling,
Gemma Fuller, Robert Jones, Matthew Rowland, Rebecca Seale, Gregory Sims, Paulo
Teixeira and Laura Tyrer.
First Anniversary Video, June 2014:
In October 2013, the production, which has so far been seen by almost 300,000
people since it began previews in May 2013, is extending its run due to popular
demand, releasing almost 400,000 extra tickets.
Between Monday 28th October and Saturday 2nd November 2013, it also broke the
West End record for the highest reported weekly gross sales. Over the course of
the nine show week almost 20,000 people saw the musical at Theatre Royal Drury
Lane achieving a record value of £1,062,606. This figure also breaks the show’s
own Drury Lane record set in August 2013. Since the box office opened in October
2012 the show has taken £21million in ticket sales and is now booking through to
Following a demanding assessment day at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on Friday
7th March 2014, Ruth Blakey, Kayleigh Chapman, Jenny Milner, Erin Rankin and
Lois Taviner (pictured above) were offered a week-long ‘Golden Ticket’ paid work
placement, working backstage on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
the seven-time Olivier Award-nominated musical.
The five recipients of the ‘Golden Ticket’ placements - shortlisted from over
600 applicants - started in March 2014, and spent time with the lighting, sound,
automation, wardrobe, wigs, make-up and stage management departments.
At the end of the week, the most promising candidate was rewarded with a
life-changing three-month paid placement as production intern on the show,
working alongside some of the best practitioners in the business.
The ‘Golden Ticket’ placements are part of Warner Bros. Creative Talent, a brand
new programme of investment in skills and training for the UK creative
BOOSTERZ™ Inflatable Booster Cushions are now available to borrow at this
theatre. Raising a child 10 to 14 cm, this easily inflated - by pump or pure
'puff power' - item can be loaned from ushers at the venue (who will supply it
ready inflated!). For regular theatregoers, they can also be purchased direct from the inventors at
www.boosterz.co.uk, and the more you buy, the greater the discount!
(Seen at the preview on 12th June 2013). Some actors
have now left the cast.
Any stage musical that has to compete with the memories of both a much loved
book and spectacularly colourful musical film is starting at a disadvantage. For
that reason alone, you cannot blame creators David Greig, Marc Shaiman and Scott
Wittman for adding a little invention to their adaptation, or for including
iconic song “Pure Imagination” in an otherwise all-new score.
The monkey would also like to make clear that it saw a preview
a mere two days after the “Great Glass Elevator” effect was introduced into the
show, and that there was clearly work to be done on the show to drag it from the
3.9 star to 4 star plus show the finished item it is sure it will be.
For there is already much to love. A slow-burning opening
(cross those fingers and ditch the cartoon and dump sequences, producers, your
show will be better for it) is saved by the wonderful Michelle Bishop as a sweet
vendor with a most unique sales technique. Moments later, Charlie arrives home
and we meet his loving family... and the show bursts into a life that charms
through almost until the interval.
Such is the warmth created by a combination of emotional
honesty and inventive gentle comedy that the monkey was rummaging in its pocket
for a donation towards Charlie’s birthday gift – and joined the cheering when he
finally got his ticket.
Punctuating the domestic action with brilliantly staged sequences introducing
the other children, the cheery mixture of fun tunes and inventive characters
(not sure about Mike TeeVee becoming a violent hacker, though) bubble merrily
Suddenly, though, the show hits a snag with what should have
been the climax of act one... “It Must Be Believed to Be Seen” introducing Mr
Wonka himself. Bringing the curtain down on a dull number that should have been
brimming with energy, it was fascinating to discover that the curtain rose again
on “Strike That! Reverse It” – a clear instruction to director Sam Mendes to
move that joyful “meet and greet” sequence to the other side of the break!
Sadly, we come off that inspired lunacy into the second big
letdown of the show. The iconic factory “chocolate room” – everything edible and
with a fabulous chocolate river – just isn’t magical. Sure, theatre is limited
in a way film isn’t, but still...
Luckily, once past that, a few too-grey projections which have to cover scene
changes (the problems of stage adaptations in any fantasy story), and an
inconsistent bunch of Oompa Loompas (have the guts to stick with the puppets,
they work best!) aside, we quickly get back on track.
The young brats are disposed of inventively, a perfect
“Nutcracker Sweet” in particular – though the monkey could have done without a
vicious and unnecessary death (not in the book) and “Pure Imagination” comes
close with some inventive if fairly unoriginal staging.
Oddly, though, the very end ignores the wonderful adoption of
the Buckets by Wonka and Wonka by the Buckets in favour of a weak plot device
linking an “old man at the dump” at the start of Act One with Wonka – and
abandoning Charlie to his own devices. Hopefully something thing tightened
before press night, feels the monkey.
Still, it’s a high quality show and the monkey enjoyed it enough to demand a
cast CD be released. It’s a show for grandparents to take grandchildren of a
mature 8 to 12 to, and for those on a less than Wonka income, the show’s best
seen from the cheap seats upstairs too.
The performances (particularly the children – name checks for Jack Costello and
Ellie Simons as Charlie and Veruca in particular) are strong. Not as smooth,
funny or sophisticated as predecessor at this venue, “Shrek”, but with heart - a very genuine evening.