When Charlie wins a golden ticket to the weird and wonderful Wonka Chocolate Factory, it’s the chance of a lifetime to feast on the sweets he’s always dreamed of. But beyond the gates astonishment awaits, as down the sugary corridors and amongst the incredible edible delights, the five lucky winners discover not everything is as sweet as it seems.
A number of great theatre shows closed in the West End this weekend. The Railway Children is no more, Beverly Knight is no longer falling in love with The Bodyguard and Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory closed its doors. I hadn’t seen the latter yet despite meaning to check it out ever since it opened back in 2013 so I treated myself to the cheapest ticket I could find for last Friday night.
I snagged the last seat in the balcony for the princely sum of £27.03 – a random price but the cheapest I could find at such short notice. Unsurprisingly with it being so close to the end the show was a complete sold out. I actually quite liked this as while it meant there was very little room to get comfortable (the seats in this theatre are very close together and the balcony very steep – I wouldn’t really recommend sitting up there to be honest but you get what you pay for!) it did mean that the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement.
Despite being so high up I had a fairly clear view of the stage except from on a couple of occasions when the characters were required to be right at the front of the stage. The staging was fantastic and they made great use of the space that was available to them.
I have to admit though that I didn’t find the first half of the show particularly engaging. The songs while OK weren’t particularly memorable and they didn’t seem to get through much of the story by the time the safety curtain was lowered on act one (they were only just entering the factory itself at this point) and I was worried that the rest of the show would feel somewhat rushed. Which luckily it didn’t.
The second half is where this show truly comes alive with every new set bursting with colour and possibility. Just as it would were the factory real. Jonathan Slinger was fantastic as Willy Wonka and, I thought, echoed Gene Wilder’s version beautifully while still making the character his own. Charlie was played by Ptolemy Gidney and had a wonderful rapport with Grandpa Joe played by Barry James.
While I thought that the child actors were actually very good I did struggle to actual hear what most of them were saying/singing which was a shame. I also wasn’t a fan of the changes they had made to the characters of Violet and Mike Teavee with the latters solo song quite jarring when compared to the rest of the performance.
The most spectacular thing about the show though is the special effects. The technical team behind this show have outdone themselves with seemingly impossible feats coming to life in front of your eyes. The great glass elevator towards the end of the show was my personal highlight.
I’m glad that I went to see the show in the end but if it was still around I wouldn’t be rushing to see it again. The show is moving to Broadway later this year and 42nd Street will be replacing it here in London from March which if you plan on seeing I’d recommend bringing a jumper, it was really cold and drafty in there!