This show is based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s show. The book has been written by playwright David Greig, with original score by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman

This show had a long history dating back to its premiere on the 25th July, 2013 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the West End of London. The production, directed by Sam Mendes ran continuously till the 7th January, 2017.

A reworked production opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on the 23 April, 2017 with a new director Jack O’Brien, choreography by Josh Bergasse and a new set designer Mark Thomson. The production closed on 15th November 2017 after 305 performances.

Now it’s Sydney’s turn with the production opening last night on Friday 11th January  again directed by Jack O’Brien. The production is a replica of the Broadway production with an Australian cast except for the role of Willy Wonka which is played by U.S actor Paul Slade Smith who played Grandpa George in the original Broadway production. Paul Slade Smith gives an outstanding production in the role. 

The prized kids role of Charlie Bucket is being shared by four talented young actors, Oliver Alkhair, Xion Jarvis, Tommy Blair and Ryan Yeats. Ryan Yeates played Charlie on opening night and gave a very assured performance.

One of Australia’s theatrical legends Tony Sheldon was well cast as Charlie’s grandfather Joe with Lucy Maunder giving a very warm hearted performance as Mrs Bucket.

Roald Dahl’s story pivots around the five lucky kids who each win a Golden Ticket to go inside and explore Willy Wonka’s kingdom with Willy being their guide. The play generates a lot of tension as Charlie becomes the last kid to win a ticket. The show goes to interval as Willy Wonka opens the gate to his chocolate kingdom.

The second Act sees the four obnoxious ticket holders get their much deserved comeuppance. The first room that Wonka shows the group is the chocolate room, Jack Fehily as the obese, gross Augustus Gloop gets sucked up by a chocolate extraction pipe. Wonka’s Oompa-Loompas do nothing to save him.  Octavia Barron-Martin, who plays Augustus’s mother Mrs Gloop, is none too happy.

Spoilt pop queen Violet Beauregard, a grand diva in the making, played by Monette McKay, finds herself turned into a  giant blueberry in the Inventory Room, the next room the kids are invited into. It happens when she doesn’t listen to Willy Wonka’s instruction to stop chewing his magic gum which provides for a three course meal just as the time when the dinner gets to desert. Madison McKoy as her Dad can’t quite believe what he sees.

Wonka’s next takes everyone to the Nut Room where there are squirrels ‘making hay’ with the nuts, sorting the good ones from the bad ones. Spoilt Russian ballet dancer Veruca Salt, played by Karina Russell, tries to grab one of the squirrels and ends up being flushed down a rubbish chute along with her father played by Stephen Anderson.

Wonka’s next pit stop is a room called the Department of the Future. The biggest feature of this room is chocolate television. The obnoxious bully and know it all Mike Teevee, played by Harrison Riley, doesn’t listen to Willy when he tells him not to fiddle with the tv and ends up pressing the remote and he disappears in a puff of smoke turning up again as a 6 inch tall man. His mum, played by Jayde Westaby, is quite happy with the outcome, knowing now that she will be able to control him. She puts him in her purse and leaves the factory.

Charlie Bucket is the last child standing and Willy gives him an Everlasting Gobstopper, an awesome present which Willy is very thankful for. The rest of what happens you will have to see for yourself.

The show goes at a cracking pace with plenty of set changes (set design by Mark Thompson, the Broadway deigner), some computer generated imaging and great lighting effects by Japhy Weideman. One could tell looking around the theatre that the kids were enthralled and gobsmacked by what was going on.

A great highlight of the show was Wonka’s Oompa Loompas featuring brilliant puppetry and dancing by ensemble cast members.  

An excellent orchestra under the direction of Kellie Dickerson played Mark Shaiman’s score with precision. The songs were quality songs each pushing the narrative forward, sweet ballads  mixed with plenty of up tempo numbers.

In short, CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is gobsmackingly good fun and is currently playing the Capitol Theatre.

Featured image- Lucy-Maunder, Tony-Sheldon,Danielle-O’Malley, Johanna Allen,Kanen Breen, TommyBlair in CHARLIE THE-CHOCOLATE FACTORY c Jeff-Busby.