It’s on its first ever UK and Ireland tour and for the next two weeks, its in Bristol. Yes, the Hippodrome is delighted to bring Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the stage.
When I see a musical version of a classic story coming to the stage, it fills me both with excitement and scepticism.
Sometimes you can’t beat an original. I certainly felt that way when the 2005 film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released. I much preferred the original and wondered what the stage production would be like.
Like a game of football, I’d describe it as a musical of two halves.
It’s based on the iconic Roald Dahl story, but with a few changes and some new numbers from the multi award-winning songwriters of Hairspray.
Charlie Bucket, who lives in the fictional town of Grimechester with his mum and two sets of grandparents, spends much of his time in a local rubbish dump finding items to cheer them up.
He might be poor, but he certainly has a rich and vivid imagination and when he hears that the mysterious chocolatier wizard Willy Wonka is opening his factory, Charlie is determined to get his hands on one of five golden tickets.
We of course meet the winners – Augustus Gloop (Robin Simoes Da Silva), Veruca Salt (Kazmin Borrer), Violet Beauregarde (Marisha Morgan) and Mike TV (Teddy Hinde) who find the first four tickets, and their families.
This first half, while setting the scene, moved along quite slowly I felt and I wondered looking around the theatre how many of the young children in the audience might be fidgeting.
Before the interval, we met Willy Wonka himself, who I really didn’t like. I didn’t feel he matched the Gene Wilder character, who was so iconic. However, by the end I loved him and think Gareth Snook, had it just right!
During the interval, I couldn’t help but worry that the second half might not be the magical treat I’d hoped for. But I’m delighted to say it was every bit as wonderful as I wanted it to be.
It really felt like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when the songs Pure Imagination and The Candy Man featured and it was nice to hear the audience quietly singing along in approval.
But it was the explosion of colour and lights, props and scenic effects, that made this so exciting and got me sitting up straight in my seat.
The factory tour was delicious.
The appearance of the chocolate river got children talking, and the props got people giggling. It was a fun way of engaging the youngest theatre goers and there were plenty of them!
There are four Charlie’s on this current musical tour, two of whom are girls – but on Thursday evening it was Isaac Sugden, playing the lead role. His mid-length golden hair was a nod in my mind to the original Charlie, played in 1971 by Peter Ostrum.
He was confident and there was great chemistry between him and Grandpa Joe (Michal D’Cruze), particularly in the first half.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie’s mum Mrs Bucket was played by Leonie Spilsbury and I really liked that she signed her lines, alongside speaking them.
To begin with I wondered if it had been a special performance, but only the grandparents and Charlie, occasionally also did this, and not the other characters.
I have since learned that Leonie is deaf and the characters who engaged with her directly used sign language. Many of the actors doubled up in roles, with Kate Evans playing both Grandma Josephine and Mrs Gloop. The ensemble group wore many hats, most notably the robotic dancers, in place of Oompah-Loompahs.
I took along my sons aged 12 and nine, the youngest of which is a fidget at the best of times, but he sat relatively still.
Both really enjoyed the show, and talked about the props all the way home and how it made them laugh - particularly Veruca Salt being declared a bad nut and subsequently sliding into a rubbish bin and the giant blueberry being thrown around the stage replacing Voilet who defiantly eats an everlasting gobstopper.
If you’re looking for a fun, family night out, then this show would keep them entertained. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is in town until Sunday, October 8 and ends with a matinee performance.
To book online tickets from £13 plus booking fee go to https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-the-musical/bristol-hippodrome/.