Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Musical review – a burst of colour in a junk-filled world

It has a touch of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in it, making it a festive and fun family show. James Brining’s new play for Leeds Playhouse highlights the rags to riches element, opening in a gray, junk-filled world where Charlie is the only bright spot of colour. This budding inventor is the one who deserves a ticket to Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory.

Although the show takes a while to get started, there are plenty of things to enjoy. The other children who are able to grab the golden tickets are a delight, and contrast with the Bucket family. Michael D’Cruze’s Grandpa Joe is particularly impressive, as well as Leonie Spilsbury’s two roles of Grandpa Joe. Leonie Spilsbury plays two very different mothers: the loving Mrs Bucket or the harried, booze-swigging Mr Teavee. Gareth Snook is a standout as Willy Wonka. He manages to be both enchanting and sinister at the same time.

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The factory is strange, mysterious and sinister. Photograph: Johan Persson

Any adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved book is only as good as its fantastical factory. Willy Wonka’s confectionery factory is, as the song for the 1971 film version says, a world of pure imagination. The second act, which takes us into the world through Simon Wainwright’s huge video projections feels strangely flat. Our attention is captured by screens, rather than the raw magic of theatricality like Mike Teavee.

This tale has a lot to offer in terms of creativity and resourcefulness. Charlie loves to make something from nothing and transform junk into treasures. Brining could learn from its protagonist by using less technology and more of our collective imagination.


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