Based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel, this musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical comes to Norwich on its first UK and Ireland tour, after a four-year run in the West End from 2013.
Telling the story of poor but humble Charlie Bucket who becomes one of five lucky children to find a golden ticket and the chance to enter Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. As the embark on an incredible and edible adventure, we soon discover not everything is as sweet as it seems, and no one leaves as they arrived.
The production feels like a show of two halves, both in set design and story. Act One sees a more traditional approach to staging with moving scenery creating various locations and a steady introduction to each character – Kazmin Borrer as spoilt “bad nut” Veruca Salt, Teddy Hinde as screen-time addict Mike Teavee, Marisha Morgan as sassy record-breaking chewer Violet Beauregarde and Robin Simoes da Silva as greedy food-lover Augustus Gloop. Act Two relies heavily on video design, projections and lighting to illuminate the wonder of the factory, and the story pace increases, but I was a little disappointed not to see physical sets bringing the imagination to life. Perhaps these differences support the drastic difference between everyday life and Willy Wonka’s world.
Musical numbers include the memorable songs Pure Imagination and The Candy Man from the 1970s film version but there’s a host of new tunes, each helping shape the characters. Sadly the well-known “oompa loompa” song is not included and the Oompa Loompas are given a new look, all in silver suggesting they may be more of a robot in this adaptation.
Following in the footsteps of Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp as the infamous Willy Wonka is no doubt a daunting task, but Gareth Snook commands the stage at every opportunity and really makes the iconic role his own, especially within his exuberant, captivating and slightly fierce first number ‘It Must Be Believed To Be Seen‘ – Snook definitely brings all the eccentric behaviour you’d expect from Mr Wonka.
The role of Charlie Bucket will be shared between four young actors throughout the tour, but last night it was the turn of Noah Walton (previously seen in the Les Miserables UK tour) who brilliantly portrayed the sensitive and hopeful young Charlie. Michael D’Cruze gave an endearing performance as loveable Grandpa Joe – together with Noah Walton the two demonstrate a sweet and humble relationship and duet.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory showcases the brilliance of imagination – it’s a treat for the eyes and ears as you journey through the mysterious world of confectionery.
Personally though, I feel this production lacks some of the impressive staging expected with a big touring musical so you might want to consider this when buying tickets, especially if you compare it to something like the recent touring version of Mary Poppins.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday April 29, 2023.