The Warner Bros. Theatrical Ventures production of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory had its West End opening at London’s iconic Theatre Royal Drury Lane Tuesday night. The show, directed by Skyfall helmer Sam Mendes, has been in previews for the past few weeks but opened tonight to a crowd that inclduded Uma Thurman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Episodes stars Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, new Downton Abbey addition Nigel Harman and a host of other UK TV personalities. Olivier and Tony Award winner Douglas Hodge stars as imagination impresario Willy Wonka in a performance that was warmly received. At a three-story event in the Connaught Hotel afterwards, I asked Mendes how involved he’ll be in the production going forward and he said he’d check in every couple of weeks but is looking forward to a vacation – he worked on Charlie somewhat simultaneously with Skyfall. As for his potentially directing the next James Bond movie he says it’s on the table, but he’s been so busy with the musical that he’ll take some time before talking about Bond. His take on Roald Dahl’s classic story of a selfless boy whose life is forever changed by one chocolate bar has songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The show provides a stunning first half introducing the hopeful Golden Ticket winner Charlie Bucket and his family. The second half brings the audience and Charlie and his four fellow Golden Ticket holders into the workings of the Wonka factory; all amid extraordinary sets and contemporary tweaks. There’s also a new take on the Oompa Loompas and, yes, Willy does sing “Pure Imagination.”
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