Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Better than a Lifetime Supply of Chocolate

Reviewed by Eden Eidt

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Grand is absolutely no fun. Wait—strike that, reverse it!

If you are not already familiar with the story by Roald Dahl and its several film adaptations, the tale follows Charlie Bucket, a sweet and imaginative child from a poor family, who one day receives the chance to turn his luck around. A contest is announced by master chocolatier, Willy Wonka, that five children who find a golden ticket in their Wonka bars can win every child’s dream: a lifetime supply of chocolate. After four of the tickets are found by other unruly children, Charlie discovers a golden ticket. The lucky recipients then tour Willy Wonka’s factory to receive their just desserts on an adventure that they are sure to never forget.

Director Jan Alexandra Smith creates a show that is sugar-coated nostalgia for adult audiences, and a memorable introduction to the classic story for children. In both cases, Charlie immerses its audience in a world of pure imagination.

The production is masterfully led by Mark Uhre, who delivers a fresh take on Wonka through his childlike physicality and his unabashed eccentricity. Neela Noble, one of the two young actors sharing the role, plays an endearing Charlie bolstered by her remarkable vocal strength and natural likability. She and the other Charlie, Greyson Reign Armer, are making their Grand Theatre debut.

Despite their brattiness, the other golden ticket-winners are a delight to watch and shine in their individual talents. The hilarious Elena “Elm” Reyes as the screenager from every parent’s nightmare, Mike TeaVee, was delightfully manic, and vocal powerhouse, Mikela Marcellin, in the role of Violet Beauregarde, certainly deserves the title of her song, “Queen of Pop.”

These additions to the score add a contemporary feel to the show, that Smith aims for and achieves in her artistic vision. The cast executes the demand for musical variety well as they effortlessly adapt to various musical styles—from yodelling during Augustus Gloop’s introduction, “More of Him to Love,” to 90s pop that evokes the era of the Spice Girls and glitter lip gloss as Marcellin belts her solo. The updated musical, however, gives a nod to its well-beloved source material with songs like “Pure Imagination” and warms the heart of every audience member who recalls their own first experience with the 1971 film, thanks to a touching performance by Uhre.

The set is awe-inspiring, with a level of detail and use of colour in Wonka’s chocolate room that would entice even the audience to take a bite. The costumes, such Charlie’s outgrown patchwork pants in stark contrast to Veruca’s ballet attire, are similarly effective in their design, and illustrate character before the actor even delivers a line. Before we say anything else, however, we need to address the dolls (used in gruesome substitution for the children after they encounter their fates) and the Oompa Loompas, played by the ensemble, that were as terrifying as they were hysterical.

Supported by the abundance of these creative stage elements, the entire cast is a wealth of vocal and comedic ability. But do not just take it from me, be sure to take your own tour of Wonka’s factory this holiday season. If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it… at the Grand!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory continues with eight shows a week at the Grand Theatre, 471 Richmond Street, London, Ontario until December 24. Call the box office at (519) 672-8800 or visit for tickets.

Photo: Mark Uhre as Willy Wonka and cast. Photo by Dahlia Katz. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Book by David Greig
Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Based on the novel by Roald Dahl
Songs from the Motion Picture by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley
Directed by Jan Alexandra Smith
Musical Direction by Alexandra Kane
Choreography by Robin Calvert
Performed by Greyson Reign Armer, Meg Buchanan-Lunn, Krystle Chance, Aadin Church, Barbara Fulton, Nathanael Judah, Christopher Lucas, Amanda Lundgren, Mikela Marcellin, Neela Noble, Nicole Norsworthy, Melissa Mackenzie, Elena “Elm” Reyes, Salvatore Scozzari, David Talbot, Mark Uhre, and ensemble.
Grand Theatre, 471 Richmond Street, London, Ontario.
November 21, 2023 to December 24, 2023
Reviewed by Eden Eidt


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