Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. It certainly feels like that at Milton Keynes Theatre, which now resembles a chocolate factory thanks to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opening its gates for lucky golden ticket holders. This show is a magical extravaganza with no limits to your own imagination. I actually felt like a child again in awe and wonder of what I was seeing. This stunning production was enchanting and left me feeling quite emotional.
The story is one of Roald Dahl’s best loved books, and has previously been turned into two very successful films. But seeing this show on stage for the first ever UK tour is on another level. You cannot begin to envisage how spectacular this show is. The sets are an engineering dream. How do they get four adults in a bed raised above the ground? How did they build a dump that you can climb up on? And inside the Wonka factory is the world of pure imagination indeed. The way we go to different parts of the factory with the clever projections and yes, there really is a glass elevator on stage. It’s just everything the inner child in me could wish for. On top of that, to see Mike Teavee, turn into a tiny specimen on TV; To see Augustus Gloop eat so many sausages; to see a cuddly squirrel on stage that is bigger than a human – this show is enthralling and breath-taking in equal measure.
Mr Wonka is played by Gareth Snook and there are not enough superlatives for me to use for his performance. I loved, loved, loved his Wonka persona. He is quirky and eccentric. He is rather scary and intimidating. He is also kind and vulnerable. Gareth has delivered on everything your imagination wants Wonka to be. We just don’t know what might happen next in Mr Wonka’s world and Gareth portrays this wonderfully. As Charlie says ‘Mr Wonka, you’re not what I expected.’ ‘I’m not what I expected either.’ Mr Wonka replies.
Charlie opens the show. and tonight, was played by Noah Walton. What a star he is. Not only can he sing but Noah gets us to empathise with poor Charlie who lives with his mum and grandparents and they can barely afford to eat so a chocolate bar is a special treat. Noah does an outstanding job. Michael D’Cruze is Grandpa Joe and is the grandpa everyone wishes for. He loves Charlie, encourages his dreams and even gives his funeral savings for a chance at winning a golden ticket. We all need a Grandpa Joe in our lives.
The extraordinarily talented cast deliver on every number. I loved the oompa loompa’s songs. Dressed in silver with a mask not unlike phantom of the opera, they had a slight twist on each child, like wearing a Tutu for Veruca or a basketball shirt for Violet. I loved Jerry and Cherry’s news reports. And this show has a full orchestra to support the numbers. I do love an orchestra. There is just so much to love about this show. And I did buy a golden ticket – they are actually on sale in the foyer!
If you want to see inside the factory and enter this magical world, what are you waiting for? Go buy a ticket for this delightfully delicious show. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has opened its gates until 5 March 2023.