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Theatre Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


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We all know of the characters and we all know the story. Since we were young, the wonders of Willy Wonka and his magical chocolate factory have amazed us, tempted us, and made us yearn for those wonderful sweet treats wrapped in a purple coat.

Willy Wonka has opened his looming metal gates once again - this time, for guests at the Royal Theatre Drury Lane in London. It was the music that originally drew us to the show; we had heard one of the songs on the radio one afternoon, and then made a point of seeing the musical in the West End. It's an impressive musical, although with an Academy Award-winning director like Sam Mendes at the helm, it's bound to be something special.

The show opens with a fantastic projected animation across the stage, which really sets the tone. It was drawn by none other than Quentin Blake, and I think it does a fantastic job of taking the audience back to their childhood and reliving the fantastic stories that Dahl and Blake helped bring to life. Within minutes, we're thrust into the Bucket family home, complete with the four elderly grandparents who seem to say something outrageously funny each time they open their mouths. 

The second half begins in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and I was quite taken aback by the set design. Each room of the factory came with a new set design, and some of them were pretty flamboyant indeed. It was incredible how some of the impossible feats in the book were adapted to the stage, although I did notice quite a few elements of the story were removed. The costumes, too, were epic, and it's clear to see why they won the show an Olivier Award just recently. The grandparents' costume, hair, and make-up were just brilliant - wacky, yet somehow quite genuine and down-to-earth.

Special mentions must go to Jack Costello who essentially spent the whole duration on stage as Charlie Bucket. You could see the young actor really concentrating as he remembered his dance moves, and it was really heart-warming to see such a talented boy having the opportunity to showcase his skills in a musical like this.  Another highlight was Dane Juler, who played Augustus Gloop. His German accent was fantastic, and he really had the audience in fits of laughter each time he was on stage. He was innocent, and seemed to have a constant obsession with strudel. Brilliant.

The musical score was slightly disappointing, and we didn’t really leave thinking any of the numbers had been particularly memorable. Considering everything else was really top notch and complimented each other perfectly, that was the only downfall in an otherwise brilliant West End musical.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is showing at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

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