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Preview: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Drury Lane)

Move over Matilda there’s a new Roald Dahl musical in town, and we couldn’t be more excited. Here’s all you need to know about the theatrical event of 2013.

It’s not too long before the world premiere of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory hits Drury Lane in London, and we couldn’t be more excited. Set to be one of the theatrical events of the year, the brand new musical which is being directed by Sam Mendes, will bring one of the nations most beloved films to life.

We all know the story; five golden tickets are hidden beneath the wrappers of Mr Willy Wonka’s delicious chocolate bars – five golden tickets which will change the lives of those who find them. The winning children are invited through the gates of Mr Wonka’s Chocolate factory to see all the secrets and magic inside, and to meet Mr Wonka and his staff of Oompa-Loompas. For Charlie Bucket, a poor boy living within sight of the factory, winning the fifth and final golden ticket is just the beginning of an unforgettable adventure… Roald Dahl’s deliciously dark tale of young Charlie Bucket and the mysterious confectioner Willy Wonka has captivated the world for almost 50 years.

Douglas Hodge and Sam Mendes in rehearsals.

Douglas Hodge and Sam Mendes in rehearsals.

Olivier and Tony Award®-winning actor Douglas Hodge will play Willy Wonka, alongside Nigel Planer as Grandpa Joe, Clive Carter as Mr Salt, Jasna Ivir as Mrs Gloop, Paul J Medford as Mr Beauregarde, Iris Roberts as Mrs Teavee, Billy Boyle as Grandpa George, Roni Page as Grandma Josephine and Myra Sands as Grandma Georgina.

So how does Douglas Hodge feel about taking on such an iconic character? ‘I certainly feel that in some ways this role is very similar to doing a Shakespeare.’ Hodge continues,’ You’re aware of taking on a part that has a sort of ownership, and that like Hamlet or King Lear there’ve been other people to play the role before. It’s a bit like becoming the England manager! I’m certainly aware of that kind of tradition…I’m just really listening to the story as much as I can and trying to make it my own.’

We’re expecting big things from the stage design, seems as the book and subsequent films paint such a bright picture of Wonka’s world. ‘I don’t care how big the set is and how colourful it is,’ says Hodge, ‘if it doesn’t touch people’s hearts then I don’t want to be in it. Right from the beginning my thing has been ‘yeah, that looks great but what’s the story? Are we just showing off or are we telling the story?’ If we’re telling the story we’ll move people, but if they’re not moved it won’t last so we have to break people’s hearts a bit. That’s my kind of feeling. It has to be true and it really has to break hearts.’

The show will feature ingenious stagecraft, and the wonder of the original story is brought to life with music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman (Grammy® winners for Hairspray; Smash), a book by award-winning playwright and adaptor David Greig (Midsummer; Creditors; Tintin In Tibet), set and costume designs by Mark Thompson (Mamma Mia!; One Man, Two Guvnors) and choreography by Peter Darling (Billy Elliot; Matilda).

The set begins to take shape...

Mark Thompson’s set begins to take shape…

Drury Lane is transformed into the intriguing world of Willy Wonka.

Drury Lane is transformed into the intriguing world of Willy Wonka.

Director Sam Mendes says of turning the book into a stage production, ‘Doing a stage adaptation allows you to dramatise every aspect of that character [Willy Wonka]. The audience never quite know whether you’re dealing with somebody who has the children’s best interests at heart, or whether he’s there to teach them a lesson. And to musicalise it adds a whole other dimension, because music can say one thing while lyrics say another.’


A sketch showing the costume design for the deliciously awful Verucca Salt and her father.

A sketch showing the costume design for the deliciously awful Verucca Salt and her father.

Oh, and the most important question of all…will there be hundreds of Oompa Loompas? Mendes reveals, ‘One of the biggest challenges of all, and the biggest surprise, will be the Oompa Loompa’s. I can’t reveal anything, but I can certainly say that you’ve never seen them done like this before.’

We’ve got our golden tickets already…

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opens at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 25th June 2013 (previews from 17 May 2013). Tickets start at £25.



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