Charlie and The Chocolate Factory: The West End’s ‘golden ticket’ musical

The applause of the audience is usually reward enough for every theatre performer and member of the creative team involved in a stage production, but let’s be honest; an official award to affirm what the audience have been telling you with their hands has to be the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, or whichever food-related turn of phrase you might care to use. The theatre award season has come round once again, and out of all the players who have entered the arena of the West End over the course of the past year, we’ll soon discover see exactly who and what will emerge at the top of their game. Voting for the BWW: UK Awards 2013 closes this week while nominations for the Whatsonstage.com Awards 2014 have just opened, and also, the shortlist for the upcoming London Evening Standard Theatre Awards is due to be revealed this week (8th November) ahead of the presentation night on Sunday 17th November 2013. Perusing through the longlist for the Awards yesterday, I was particularly interested in their new addition to the categories. This year, they have included a Best Musical Performance section to honour musical theatre performers, with such names as Rosalie Craig (The Light Princess), Gavin Creel (The Book of Mormon) and Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) being nominated for the award.

Douglas Hodge has also been nominated in the same category for his role as Willy Wonka in the stage production of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The actor has been acclaimed for his portrayal of the mysterious chocolate factory owner, by both the theatre audiences and critics. In most of the reviews from the show’s press night in June, he received high praise for his performance and his ingenuity in making the classic role, which has been played on screen by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp in film versions, completely his own. He was credited with infusing Wonka with a dual-sided depth of character, with The Telegraph describing him as, “splendidly charismatic and disconcerting,” and The Guardian heaping more praise by hailing his, “great gift of being engaging and sinister at the same time.” It’s no small wonder then that he has cropped up in the Best Musical Theatre category for the Evening Standard Awards and I’m certain that many people will be marking him as a real contender in the race.

The West End production of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory also received a nomination for Best Musical in the Awards this year; again, which will come as no surprise to most. It was already being compared to the other Roald Dahl-inspired production playing in the West End, the smash hit Matilda The Musical, long before it even played its first preview. Matilda quickly become one of the most popular shows in the West End when it opened at the Cambridge Theatre in November 2011 and has since won countless awards, including a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards in 2012. It even transferred to Broadway earlier this year, with Bertie Carvel reprising his brilliant role as the tyrannical Miss Trunchbull. So when it was announced that a stage musical of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory was on its way to the West End, a lot of people doubted that it could live up to its sister show. Whether it has or not is a matter of debate, and one which will probably rage on for some time, but one thing that is very clear is that the musical is certainly not a flop and is instead standing tall and proud as a success in its own right.

It was recently announced that, due to popular demand, the West End production has extended its run by another six months and made almost 400,000 extra tickets available. Directed by the award-winning Sam Mendes and featuring a book by David Greig, the musical was previously only booking until 31st May 2014 but the extension of its booking period now takes it through to 1st November 2014. The cast recording was also released by Sony Music on 7th October 2013. It featured the vocals of the original London company, led by Douglas Hodge alongside Nigel Planer (Grandpa Joe), Clive Carter (Mr Salt), Jasna Ivir (Mrs Gloop), Paul J Medford (Mr Beauregade), Iris Roberts (Mrs Teevee), Billy Boyle (Grandpa George), Alex Clatworthy (Mrs Bucket), Roni Page (Grandma Josephine), Myra Sands (Grandma Georgina) and Jack Shalloo (Mr Bucket), as well as the rest of the ensemble and the show’s child stars. Every song from the Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman score appears on the album, including the classic song from the original film: ‘Pure Imagination’.

It was also reported yesterday that Charlie and The Chocolate Factory has set a new West End record for the highest reported weekly gross sales, taking in over £1 million at the box office during the half term week. According to press material: “Over the course of the nine-show-week almost 20,000 people saw the musical at Theatre Royal Drury Lane achieving a record value of £1,062,606. This figure also breaks the show’s own Drury Lane record set in August 2013.” That has to be a point to Willy Wonka fans in the Matilda vs. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory debate.

It will be interesting to see how well the musical fares in the various upcoming theatre awards, but in regards to its place in the West End’s current show roster, a ticket for Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is surely worth its weight in gold.

By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)


Tuesday 5th November 2013


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