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MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical – Leeds Playhouse

Reviewer: Daniel Wood

Writer: Roald Dahl

Adapter: David Grieg

Music: Marc Shaiman

Lyrics: Scott Wittman

Director: James Brining

Billed as a dazzling reinvention of the successful West End production, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory flies in to Leeds Playhouse this holiday season. But is it a fudgemallow delight, or a stinking bowl of cabbage soup?

Based on the beloved Roald Dahl story, the plot follows young Charlie Bucket as she wins a tour of Wonka’s wondrous factory. She’s joined by four other winners, who aren’t all as gracious in accepting this golden opportunity. Personalities clash and all is not what it seems, as the lucky recipients delve deeper into Wonka’s weird world.

The ticket winners are all played by adults. From gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde (Marisha Morgan) to sausage munching Augustus Gloop (Robin Simoes Da Silva) and media-obsessed Mike Teavee (Teddy Hinde), they each bring out the worst of their despicable personalities. Kazmin Borrer’s Veruca Salt delivers a perfect portrayal of a mid-dance tantrum, and she’s the daddy’s girl you’ll love to hate. A real bad nut.

One of four children, at this performance Amelia Minto took on the title role of Charlie, and she absolutely excels. A rising star, Minto personifies Charlie’s unwavering optimism through poverty, and is a fantastic singer. A real highlight.

Gareth Snook plays factory owner and chocolate whizz Willy Wonka. Deliciously unhinged, he clearly relishes the eccentricities of the role. Whether he ventures too far into the dark and twisted world of Wonka’s mind is down to personal taste, but one’s eldest child was quick to quip “This isn’t the Willy Wonka I remember!”. Comparisons to previous Depp and Wilder are inevitable, but Snook puts his own stamp on this iconic character. With strong vocals and a string of West End hits, he’s a smart casting choice.

Michael D’Cruze is heartwarming in his portrayal of Grandpa Joe. He captures the geriatric charm of a doting grandad, and the audience is all rooting for him to get to the factory. Leonie Spilsbury’s Mrs Bucket is an unexpected treat too, with powerful vocals and a beautifully emotive rendition of Candy Man tugging on the heartstrings.

The Oompa Loompas are robots, and clearly unsettle some younger children. This reviewer’s six-year-old was spooked by these faceless factory drones. This isn’t the saccharine sweet world of Wonka you might expect, and it’s worth noting that the suggested age range is seven plus.

A live orchestra adds a real richness of sound, led by musical director Ellen Campbell. Fans of the 1971 film will recognise classics such as Pure Imagination and Candy Man, but it’s also full of new songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Almost Nearly Perfect stands out, and Doncha Pinch Me Charlie gets the audience toe-tapping along.

Special mention must go to Simon Higlett’s sumptuous set design. The Quarry Theatre is transformed into a world of pure imagination, particularly in the first act where we visit a towering dump, the Bucket’s shack of a house and – ultimately – the entrance to the grand factory. Steampunk looks to be an influence throughout.

Projection is perhaps overused in the second act, and in all honesty, the reveal of The Chocolate Room is anticlimactic. That being said, there are some fantastically inventive multimedia tricks, but one is glad that The Great Glass Elevator is a physical effect. Illusion consultant Chris Fisher too conjures extra theatrical magic. There’s plenty to enchant and amaze.

Director James Brining creates a world of pure imagination, a fantastical feast for the senses. Like a selection box, there’s something for everyone… with some unexpectedly dark chocolate moments, transitions as smooth as caramel and a sweet finish. You’ll be hungry for more.

This festive season, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a scrumdiddlyumptious alternative to a pantomime. It’ll raise your spirits faster than a fizzy lifting drink, and you’ll leave on a sugar-high of excitement.

Runs until 28th January 2023, before touring the UK.

The Reviews Hub Score

The sweetest treat

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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