Review Roundup: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY Opens in the West End - All the Reviews!


Douglas Hodge stars as Willy Wonka in the brand-new production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London. Directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes, the story is brought to life with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman (Grammy winners for Hairspray; Smash), with a book by award-winning playwright and adaptor David Greig (The Bacchae; Tintin In Tibet). The show opens tonight, June 25.

Alongside Hodge as Willy Wonka, the cast will include Nigel Planer as Grandpa Joe, Clive Carter as Mr Salt, Jasna Ivir as Mrs Gloop, Paul J Medford as Mr Beauregarde, Iris Roberts as Mrs Teavee and Myra Sands as Grandma Georgina.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Charles Spencer, The Telegraph: Director Sam Mendes lays on the theatrical goodies with a trowel. The sets are massive, the special effects amazing. If you want to see a fat boy sucked up a transparent tube or a girl metamorphosing before your very eyes into a giant blueberry, this is undoubtedly the show for you. Yet it only rarely touches the heart or stimulates the imagination like the RSC's less spectacular but far more rewarding production of Dahl's Matilda...Most of the songs, by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, strike me as serviceable rather than memorable and David Greig's script springs disappointingly few surprises. But the production has two good things going for it. Douglas Hodge is a splendidly charismatic and disconcerting Willy Wonka, brilliantly combining jokes with a twitchy hint of the psycho, and the child performers are superb.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: What stops the show being overwhelmed by spectacle is the performances: above all, Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka. Kitted out in plum-coloured tailcoat, bottle-green trousers and black top hat - exactly as Dahl prescribes - Hodge has the great gift of being engaging and sinister at the same time...He also puts across the show's best number, Pure Imagination (originally written by Newley and Bricusse for the 1971 movie), with a sincerity that conceals its paradoxical nature in a production that pre-empts our own fantasies...Less whimsical than Gene Wilder in the movie, Hodge gloriously reminds us that inside the beneficent Wonka lurks a testy authoritarian...All this is testament to Mendes's skill in masterminding a lavish bonanza of a musical without letting us forget that Dahl's book is a morality play in which vice is punished and virtue gets its edible reward.

Caroline McGinn, Time Out London: Thanks to David Greig's wickedly sardonic script and some talented child leads, Charlie's rivals are updated brilliantly for our show off-loving times...But young Bucket fades into the background and it's a relief when all the extraneous Dickensian domestic scenes showing what a nice lad he is are out of the way. Designer Mark Thompson has raised the bar on what kind of world it's possible to create on a stage, given colossal ingenuity (and a multimillion pound budget)...As Wonka, Douglas Hodge - a surprisingly straight choice - channels Rex Harrison as a charismatic, very English conductor for this nutty symphony...'Hairspray' team Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have written fun pastiches of various genres that gives you an instant high then leave you with a headache. Mendes's show just fails to reach the core of Dahl's everlasting gobstopper of a story. But it's a bumper box of a family entertainment, with a golden wrapper and plenty of whipple-scrumptious surprises.

Quentin Letts, The Daily Mail: The first half is as slow as cold treacle and most of the songs - which include an ironic techno-beat number - are duds...On the positive side we can enter clever special effects (a good gag with a shrunken child) and a much better second half. There is a solid central performance from Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka...and the set designs of Wonka's chocolate factory are colourful and plainly expensive. But a really good musical gives you a sugar rush of emotional involvement. You care about the characters. That is absent...Apart from the finale and a duet with Charlie's parents, Marc Shaiman's songs flop and Scott Wittman's lyrics may or may not be witty...This show should have followed that admirable philosophy and devoted more effort to heart and artistry instead of technical high jinks and pre-launch publicity.

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