Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Musical

May 5, 2023 by

If you ever wondered what happened to Frank N Furter and Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Show, they merged into one and swapped their Transylvanian castle for a chocolate factory and used it to start eliminating revolting human children.

The plot of this live version of the Roald Dahl morality tale of the triumph of good over greed, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, follows Charlie Bucket on his zany adventures having gotten his hands on one of their golden tickets. But to use a terrible cliché, this is very much a show of two halves, and they don’t really completely meld. The entire first half is rather a laborious account of the four vile children getting their their golden tickets while lovely Charlie endures grinding poverty and four rather sponging grandparents and hard-working mum until he finds 50p and buys a winning bar of chocolate.

Theatrically this is the better half as Charlie inhabits a scrap heap world of grey as he collects broken objects and sniffs at Wonka Bar wrappers in the street. Showing superb green credentials, the grandparents, who all live in a big bed, are equally on the scrapheap (although no idea why) and adore their broken gifts. Simon Higlett’s set allows us to move from this industrial setting to a series of witty live TV reports of those other Golden Ticket children, Augustus, Veruca, Violet and Mike.


While Gareth Snook as Willy Wonka makes his first appearance as he greets the winning children and their parents or guardians (Grandpa Joe has somehow recovered the ability to walk and dons an old workplace uniform – better not tell the benefits agency) and the interval begins. While Snook’s appearance is not quite Tim Curry descending in an elevator in Rocky Horror and discarding his cape to show just how weird and wonderful he is, this is definitely a strangely disturbing and yet appealing characterisation. This contrasts with the nauseatingly sweet Grandpa Joe character nicely played by Michael D’Cruze.

The second half is not quite the theatrical powerhouse of the first as we are left with a rather uninspiring set of video projections and illuminations inhabited by Oompa Loompas that look more like robotic Cybermen from Dr Who than the jolly little people of the iconic film version. A large but testing squirrel is an endearing blend of cute and menacing, characterising the whole edgy story.

It is laugh out loud funny in parts and Gareth Snook carries the show with his captivatingly creepy and a little sleazy portrayal of Willy Wonka. I cannot imagine that he world be like without him.

There are the famous songs such as Pure Imagination and Candyman, but this never was a particularly strong musical and on this level the show too is rather uninspired despite a live band and enthusiastic singing. It is the dark world of Roald Dahl that is the great attraction and that is captured rather well.

The Charlie role on opening night was played by a pleasant lad Isaac Sugden and on some night’s other boys and girls also take the role. Other cast members transform effortlessly across roles as Charlie’s family and then the unfortunate parents of the horrid kids.

Not to spoil the fun but the show closes with a glass elevator piece of theatricality but this too relies on more video projections as Charlie gets his goody goody reward. I am sticking to Frank N Furter’s elevator.

Wales Millennium Centre until May 20

http://Video trailer: Booking link:


To book:


Images by Johan Persson

Leave a Reply