Review: Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – The Musical, Wales Millennium Centre

Rachel and Andy Howells review Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – The Musical at Wales Millennium Centre.

Great popping candy! Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is now a stage musical!

In book-form and film media, Dahl’s magical tale has entertained children of all ages for decades. Now, courtesy of writer David Greig with music and lyrics from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the story of how Charlie Bucket and his Grandpa Joe take a magical trip to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is alive for all to see and at Wales Millennium Centre!

One wonders why it has taken so long for a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical to happen; Roald Dahl’s original story certainly pushes the imagination with the underlying message of building something out of nothing and remains as positive as it does inspire.

The show itself has a set encased in a cyberpunk stylised cataclysm for Charlie to find treasure from other people’s junk. It magically opens into a small home of which Charlie houses four grandparents in a bed, while there’s a study area and a side room for Charlie and his mum. On occasion this set switches to a shop exterior for children to purchase their Wonka bars.

As impressive as the sets in the first half are, the pace does drag a little as the plotline follows children around the world who search for 5 golden tickets to win a trip to Wonka’s magical chocolate factory. The narrative kicks into gear however, with the arrival of Willy Wonka himself. The second half drives along with more fun, action and laughs as characters such as Augustus Gloop and Veruca Salt meet their fates.

Gareth Snook as Willy Wonka and Isaac Sugden as Charlie Bucket star in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – The Musical at Wales Millennium Centre. Photo: WMC

Performance-wise, Gareth Snook blends eccentricity with charisma for his colourful portrayal of Willy Wonka and leads the cast on some of the production’s finer numbers too.

With a lot of pressure on his shoulders and almost never off-stage, Isaac Sugden was incredible as young Charlie Bucket.  Opening the show with the song Almost Nearly Perfect he portrayed the young down and out with great character and a captivating performance.  You see the relationship between him and Grandpa Joe (Michael D’Cruze) building beautifully throughout the first half.

Emma Robotham Hunt as Veruca Salt almost steals the first half of the with her ballet performance.

While the set in the second half was relatively simple the digital delight of the animations that distinguished the different areas of the factory was a visual treat. 

What I didn’t realise until the interval was that the cast members playing the grandparents and Mrs Bucket, Charlie’s Mum (Christopher Howell, Kate Milner Evans, Julie Mullins and Leonie Spilsbury) were in dual roles as parents of the lucky golden ticket children.  There was a significant difference between each of the actors’ dual performances and were another of the show’s highlights.

With an additional sprinkling of sweet-foil covered Oompa -Lumpa’s and a giant squirrel, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – the Musical has sugar-coated fun for everyone!

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