From impoverished Charlie Bucket himself (Louis Suc on the night I went) to rapping, gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde and snooty spoilt brat Veruca Saltin her pink tutu, the kids in this lavish musical are great, oozing confidence and not at all phased by having to contend with whizzing computer graphics and striking special effects.
Unlike my companion, I came to director Sam Mendes’ production with virtually no knowledge of Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s book (here adapted and updated for the stage by David Greig), but it still felt like a pretty slow start with too much time spent in the company of Charlie’s quartet of bed-ridden grandparents before he finally finds the winning wrapper which entitles him to a coveted trip to chocolate heaven.
Things really look up, though, when Douglas Hodge’s charismatic Willy Wonka makes his entrance, bringing a touch of danger to the eccentric chocolatieras, one by one, the kids get their comeuppance on their guided tour of the mysterious factory.
The hard-working Oompa-Loompas are cleverly realised by set designer Mark Thompson who’s done an impressive job creating the various rooms where hyperactive Mike Teavee, greedy Augustus Gloop and the rest meet their appropriate fates which involve evil nut-cracking squirrels, a flowing chocolate fountain , some extreme expanding and even more drastic shrinking.
You’re unlikely to come out humming the songs, and the lyrics aren’t alwaysclear. But it makes for an entertaining confection, suitable for all the family and with a timely warning in this reality TV age that no one evergets back to normal once they’ve been on television
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane Catherine, Street WC2B 5JF
Tube | Charing Cross/Covent Garden
Currently booking till 31st May 2014
Tickets £ 25 – £67.50 (+ premium seats)
Photo: Helen Maybanks