Roald Dahl’s stories ignited a love of reading for many children: The BFG, George’s Marvellous Medicine, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, James and the Giant Peach…all these books and more are as beloved by the youth of this generation as they were in generations past. In recent years, his work has transcended beyond the written word and taken on real-life form on the stage. The most successful of these is the RSC’s production of Matilda The Musical, which transferred from Stratford-Upon-Avon to the West End in 2011 and since then has won six Olivier Awards and is heading to Broadway next year. Now, another of Dahl’s classic stories is following the blazing path that Matilda has forged as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory is set to hit the West End in 2013.
The new musical is confirmed to open next June at the London Palladium, where Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Wizard of Oz is currently playing. It is to be adapted from Dahl’s 1964 novel, which tells the story of an impoverished boy who wins the chance to see inside the magical chocolate factory of the enigmatic Willy Wonka. It has twice been turned into a big-screen film; first in 1971 with Gene Wilder as Wonka and again in 2005 with Johnny Depp this time taking on the role.
The musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is under the charge of stage and film director Sam Mendes, who first made a name for himself in theatre circles at the Donmar Warehouse. He went on to direct several big Hollywood films, including Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, and his first film, American Beauty, which starred acclaimed actor Kevin Spacey and won five Oscars – one of which was for Best Director. He is currently working on new James Bond film SkyFall, which is due for release in October this year.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will feature a host of new songs by composing team and life partners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The duo have been collaborating together since 1979 and have a long list of credits between them in both theatre and film. One of their biggest musical triumphs is the stage adaption of 1988 film Hairspray, for which they wrote the music. It won eight Tony Awards in 2003, including Best Musical and Best Score. Shaiman and Wittman also write the original compositions that feature on the hit US show Smash, which follows a variety of characters throughout the development of a Broadway musical about pin-up icon Marilyn Monroe.
The musical’s book will be written by Scottish playwright David Greig, who has previously been commissioned by such esteemed theatre companies as the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. His work includes Europe (1995), The Architect (1996), San Diego (2003), Yellow Moon: The Ballad of Leila and Lee (2006) and Damascus (2007), among many others.
The London Palladium’s current tenant, The Wizard of Oz, is set to close on 2nd September this year. To date, there has been no announcement as to what will fill the venue’s nine-month empty space before Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opens there. The big question that is already on everyone’s lips though is who will get that golden ticket and play Willy Wonka?
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)