Step into a world of pure imagination with the wonderful Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, performing now at the Wales Millennium Centre. 

Written by the Cardiff-born author Roald Dahl, the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one that many children will have grown up reading, or even watching on the big screen. It follows Charlie Bucket (ISAAC SUGDEN), a young boy living in poverty with his four grandparents and hardworking mother (LEONIE SPILSBURY). 

Charlie dreams of chocolate, something out of reach for a family making barely enough to fed themselves. When the mysteriously secretive Wonka Factory decides to open to the public once more, Charlie dreams may just be within reach. 

Five golden tickets are hidden inside Wonka’s chocolate, as each ticket is slowly found by rich and greedy children, it seems Charlie may not be in with a fair chance. When fortune strike, Charlie is granted his wish and finds the final lucky golden ticket, but will the infamous Willy Wonka (GARETH SNOOK) be everything Charlie had imagined? 

This story is so close to the hearts of many, and the musical captures the emotions of that brilliantly. At its heart Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a heart-warming underdog story, and a story that’s filled with cautionary tales. 

The songs, by MARC SHAIMAN and SCOTT WITTMAN, are funny, memorable and, on occasions, moving. While most songs are original and written especially for the show, some songs you may recognise for the 1971 film like the classic Pure Imagination. 

The performances by the cast were excellent throughout. Gareth Snook plays Wonka in a delightfully unhinged way. Wonka is a complicated character, one that has some very quirkily questionable morals. Snooks perfects the strangeness down to T. 

The adaption is modernised in a very subtle way through the characters of the other four children. Veruca is a spoilt billionaire’s daughter, one who demands her father by her North Korea, played by KAZMIN BORRER. For our performance Emma Robotham Hunt took the role instead, she did a wonderful job at expressing the battiness of the character without becoming too bratty to watch. Augustus Gloop is a competitive eater, whose parents seem to own a successful Bavarian butcher shop. ROBIN SIMOES DA SILVA plays Gloop with an impressive vocal range, especially with the yodelling in his introductory number. MARISHA MORGAN plays Violet Beauregarde in a remanisant nod to child-influencers like Jojo Siwa. Her performance was brilliantly captured the character and, again, her vocal performance was outstanding. TEDDY HINDE plays a slightly scary Mike Teevee, a character that seemed to be a safety risk to anyone around. Hinde did a great job at playing the character and worked so well with the other actors to create some really funny moments. 

Charlie’s guardian for the factory tour is his Grandpa Joe, played by MICHAEL D’CRUZE. His character his delightfully sweet and comical, something that juxtaposes nicely with the more erratically behaved adults on the tour. 

CHRISTOPHER HOWELL plays both Grandpa George and Mr Salt, something I was very surprised to read later as both performances are so convincing and so different. Similarly, KATE MILNER EVANS plays Grandma Josephine and Mrs Gloop, while EMILY WINTER plays Grandma Georgina and Mrs Beauregarde. The adult performances do a wonderful job at something that a lot of adaptations often forget, that the adults are meant to be the real problems, not the children. The performancers clearly understand that the focus should be on the erratic and problematic actions of the parents and that is potrayed perfectly on stage. One character that that is a little bit more complicated for is Mrs Teevee, played by Leonie Spilsbury. Just like the other Mrs Teevee is has provided an provided a privileged home for her child yet failed to instil the morals that Dahl believed a growing child should have, however you can’t help but feel slightly sorry for her. Spilsbury is charmingly funny and plays the character with a worn-down humor that really brings a lot to the character. 

It should also be noted that Spilsbury also plays Mrs Bucket. She incorporated British Sign Language in to her performance, and the characters around her did too while she was on stage. It was a wonderful bit of representation that was woven so simply into the show, and it goes to show how seamless small changes can be made in order to make a big impact. Seeing as this show is so popular with children, I think the BSL inclusion was a perfect touch to the show, and I hope more shows go on to do something similar. 

Finally, there’s Charlie Bucket. The role is shared by five young performers: Amelia Minto Isaac Sugden, Noah Walton, George Hamblin and Jessie-Lou Harvie. The performance we saw was the turn of Isaac Sugeon who played Charlie with an adorably sweet and infectious energy. His performance was such a pleasure to watch, and it was clear that everyone in the room was impressed. 

 Overall, the show was almost-nearly perfect. The cast, creative crew and everyone involved did an amazing job. You must get down to the Roald Dahl Pass and see this wonderful show this month. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is playing at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday the 20th of May. Performances start at 7pm, with matinee shows on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm. Get your tickets here

Categories: Reviews, South Wales

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