Was our reviewer transported to a world of pure imagination?

Shortlists for 2023 Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland AnnouncedShortlists for 2023 Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland Announced

Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a musical that promises to take you on a journey of pure imagination. With book by David Greig, music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory brings its first ever UK tour to the Edinburgh Playhouse.

Young Charlie Bucket (played by Noah Walton) is a selfless child who lives in poverty with their mother and their four grandparents who share the same double bed. After school every day, Charlie rummages through rubbish looking for some kind of treasure to bring home. Once a year, on Charlie's birthday, he is presented with a Wonka chocolate bar, his favourite kind. Living in the shadows of the mysterious factory overlooking their town, everyone is curious about the chocolatier who hasn't been seen in over forty years.

It is announced that Willy Wonka has launched a competition with the finders of just 5 golden tickets hidden inside bars of chocolate gaining a private tour of the factory for themselves and their guardian. The first child to locate a ticket is a champion sausage eater who consumes a lot of Wonka chocolate. Another is a spoiled rich girl called Veruca Salt whose father has bought 1,000 bars is determined to give his daughter everything she demands. It's looking less and less likely that Charlie who only gets one bar a year is going to be lucky enough to find a ticket.

I don't think it's exactly a spoiler to say that Charlie does uncover a golden ticket and his Grandpa Joe (Michael D'Cruze) who hasn't gotten out of bed in decades is suddenly sprightly enough to manage a tour around a chocolate factory.

Act One is a bit slow-paced as everyone is desperate for a look at this reclusive eccentric chocolatier. There's a lot of fun to be had with the introductions of each of the ticket holders but overall, the songs are quite forgettable. Simon Higlett's stage design is a spectacle from start to finish and provokes awe with every scene.

At the close of the first Act, we finally meet Willy Wonka (Gareth Snook). Snook's comedic timing is brilliant as he cycles between creative genius and manic with little regard for health and safety. Act Two is when the fun really begins as the children are picked off one by one, due to their own greed and inability to follow simple instructions. Huge screens are used for scene changes with Simon Wainwright's video design and special effects and paired with Chris Fisher's illusion design the results are quite simply, magical.

The musical highlight of the evening is "Pure Imagination", the one song that has made it from the film to the stage production. Everyone onstage is in fine vocal form throughout the performance. The Oompa Loompas that work for Wonka in the factory bring perfectly coordinated routines as they cheerfully sing about the demise of each child in the factory.

This staging of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is as inventive as Wonka himself. It's a two-hour extravaganza of colour and spectacle that is guaranteed to spark your imagination.

Photo credit: Johan Persson



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