Choca-full of wonderful surprises, groups heading to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical are in for the most fantastical treat. 

When you see that the creative team in the programme includes somebody in charge of ‘illusions’, you know you’re in for something rather magical. The new production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical is precisely that. 

Taking our seats for the press night at Milton Keynes Theatre I was giddy; full of anticipation of what was to come - I wasn’t the only one as children and adults tried to contain their excitement for the show. And yes before you ask, I did have some chocolate treats in my bag in preparation. What director James Brining and his team, as well as a superb cast, have managed to pull off is nothing short of deliciously spectacular. 

The show opens with our beloved Charlie (played on press night by the brilliant Noah Walton), who is finding pieces of junk in a grey dump to take back as ‘treasure’ for his family, we were immediately drawn in.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical

Source: Johan Persson

The golden ticket winners are introduced one by one including ‘Queen of Pop’ Violet Beauregarde (Marisha Morgan). 

Just as Charlie is finding ‘magic’ within the trash, he too stands out as an extraordinary child in a rather bleak situation as the Bucket family struggle to find money for food, let alone Wonka bars.

What they lack in riches though they make up for in character. Superbly cast, the relationship between Charlie, his mum (Leonie Spilsbury), Grandpas George and Jo and Grandmas Josephine and Georgina warm your heart and bring plenty of love and laughter to life. 

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The set in the first act is very cleverly done. The rubbish dump opens up to reveal the all-important sweet shop, as well as the Bucket’s ram-shackled home with the well known scene of the grandparents all sharing the one bed.

Based on the weird and wonderful novel by Roald Dahl of course, along with the Warner Bros. film, the first ever touring production combines memorable songs from the original 1970s film such as The Candy Man and Pure Imagination as well as new numbers. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical

Source: Johan Persson

Gareth Snook’s portrayal of Willy Wonka is marvellous with the ideal mix of the weird and wonderful. 

Following Charlie’s quest to find that one golden ticket, the musical sweeps you up in the (sugar) rush of it all, not least when the set is ‘interrupted’ by news reporters Jerry and Cherry (Sundae of course) bringing the news of the first, second, third and fourth golden ticket winners across the globe.

The way you’re introduced to each of the ‘delightful’ children lucky enough to win is a delight in itself, whether it’s the Bavarian sausage eating Augustus Gloop or the spoilt, bratty Veruca Salt - the characters are superb. 

The build-up all adds to the suspense you feel in Charlie’s search for that last ticket. I had goosebumps when he eventually got it - and the gold of that ticket shone around the theatre. 

There was even more anticipation in the interval about the wonder of the factory to come in the second act; I couldn’t imagine how they would deliver iconic scenes like Violet turning into a giant blueberry or Mike Teavee becoming teeny tiny after his trip into the TV set.

Without giving anything away, it really does take you into a world of pure imagination. 

Gareth Snook’s Willy Wonka character is outstanding with the perfect ingredients of the Roald Dahl creation; strange and yet endearing; slightly sinister but full of magic.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical

Source: Johan Persson

The very loveable Grandpa Joe (Michael D’Cruze).

I have to mention Michael D’Cruze who played Grandpa Joe who is especially charming throughout.

He takes on the remarkable transformation, from being bed-bound and not able to work ‘for years’ before reverting to being a big kid himself, dressed up his finest attire for the trip to the factory - the power of the Wonka world knows no limits. 

The journey through the factory, and Wonka’s brilliant but strange imagination, is everything you would expect and so much more, and there’s the extraordinary finale too.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical is mouth-wateringly captivating and, as Willy Wonka sums up, quite simply ‘It Must Be Believed to Be Seen’.

Now where’s that bar of Whipple-Scrumptious Fudge-Mallow Wonka Bar? 

Keeley saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - The Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre on Friday 10th February. The show is at MK Theatre until Sunday 5th March and the tour is currently booking until November. 

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