Hull city centre was illuminated with the regal colour purple on Thursday evening, in honour of the king of chocolatiers, Mr Willie Wonka, who, along with an amazing cast, crew and orchestra, brought Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory: The Musical, to life on the Hull New Theatre stage.
We theatregoers also got the royal treatment by walking on a plush purple carpet into the venue, itself decorated with purple and gold balloons.
What a magnificent start to the autumn season.
The story centres around a young lad called Charlie Bucket, who lives with his two sets of bedridden grandparents and his mother in a shack.
Charlie (Haydn Court – definitely a future stage star) spends his spare time sifting through the local rubbish site looking for trinkets he can give to his grandparents to brighten their day.
Then news comes of a chocolate factory in the town reopening after mysteriously closing decades before. And the owner, Willie Wonka (a very entertaining Gareth Snook), is offering five lucky children the chance to win a golden ticket to experience a tour of the factory, run by his workforce of metallic, robot-like Oompa Loompas.
Winners come from all around the world – Augustus Gloop (Robin Simões Da Silva) from Germany; Violet Beauregarde (Marisha Morgan) and Mike Teavee (Teddy Hinde), both from America; and billionaire’s daughter Veruca Salt (Kazmin Borrer) and Charlie Bucket, both from England.
Charlie was the last winner and we in the choc(k)-a-block theatre (pun intended), all cheered as one when he unwrapped his Wonka bar to reveal a golden ticket.
But polite, humble, kind-hearted, unselfish Charlie was left in the shade by the other four, whose antics had me laughing out loud. Each cast member played their part to perfection.
There was greedy Augustus in his lederhosen, stuffing his face with German sausages; Mike lounging on the sofa, TV remote glued to his hand; demanding Veruca, spoilt rotten by her rich father; and Violet, forever bathing in her mother’s adoration.
But all four were in for a shock when their factory tour turns out to be a not-so-sweet experience.
We witnessed their downfalls in the most spectacular stage settings imaginable. I’ll leave anyone reading this to guess who suffered a “tragic” incident in a chocolate waterfall or is mistaken for a “bad nut” by a giant, nut-sorting squirrel, is disposed of.
It’s easy to guess who ended up trapped inside a huge TV and, in a truly hilarious scene, one winner eats some of Wonka’s untested gum, rolling about the stage as a giant blueberry.
Leaving Charlie to receive a prize beyond his wildest dreams.
Words can’t describe how inventive and imaginative the stage setting is in this production. A production whose super-talented cast kept us entertained non-stop.
Space prevents me from naming everyone on stage but, to a man, woman, child and Oompa Loompa, all voices were loud, clear and tuneful, doing justice to a very clever script full of witty one-liners.
Rousing music from a 10-piece orchestra was the icing on the (chocolate) cake. Live theatre doesn’t get any better than this.
Running until Saturday, September 16th, 2023; 7pm nightly with 2pm matinees on Thursday 7th, Saturday 9th, Sunday 10th, Thursday 14th and Saturday 16th. Tickets cost from £25. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Age guidance 7+
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 7th September 2023
North West End UK Rating: