The much-anticipated UK and Ireland tour of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical will open its gates at Theatre Royal Plymouth from 7 – 18 June. Tickets are on sale on the TRP website.
Leading the cast in the extraordinary role of Willy Wonka will be West End star Gareth Snook. Featuring memorable songs from the iconic 1970s film including The Candy Man and Pure Imagination as well as a host of new numbers, this sensational musical is choc-full of fantastical treats to indulge the senses, bringing audiences to a world of pure imagination.
We sat down with Gareth to find out more about his new musical adventure and how Roald Dahl’s famed character is being brought to life on stage.
Alongside brilliant songs from the film, the musical features a score by the multi award-winning composer and lyricist of Hairspray and Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. How would you describe the soundtrack?
There’s so many nods to different musical genres from pop to heartfelt ballads and big dancing theatrical numbers. Wonka also has a brilliant patter song at the top of Act 2. It really has got something for everyone.
The story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was first published in 1964. Why do you think the magic of the factory and this fantastical journey had stood the test of time?
All of the characters, from Wonka to Charlie and all the children, have been written so vividly that they’re enticing. They all come from such different backgrounds so kids can
relate to them and their families. Although they are all in some ways spoilt and excessive, and are allowed to be by their parents, kids can relate to this and find the enjoyment in it, especially when they get their just desserts. The story really has got everything… and who doesn’t like chocolate!
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has seen numerous film and stage adaptations. Were you a fan of the story growing up?
Bizarrely enough I came to Roald Dahl’s work later in life having not grown up with it. As an adult I can appreciate the intricacies of his work but wish I had come to his world of imagination much earlier – it really is fabulous!
Many people will have their own interpretation of Willy Wonka, from having read the books to seeing Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp on screen. How have you approached the character and put your own spin on him?
I watched the films when they came out, and I’ve revisited them again for research purposes, but I approached my interpretation with an open mind. Wonka is a mercurial character. He’s everything you want him to be, which is great fun to play, despite his cynicism and how sinister he is at times. You might say he’s as layered as a gobstopper!
What character were you most like when you were younger?
Wonka, of course. You only have to talk to our director James Brining, who said, ‘I don’t know where Wonka starts and you end.’ I do have a strange affinity with the character. I don’t know whether that’s a good or bad thing! He’s a complex character, but I do understand his frustrations and disappointments.
Do you have a sweet tooth – what is your vice?
I have SUCH a sweet tooth. My vice is chocolate, and I’m not just saying that. But I have been so good limiting my sugar intake doing this show – there are only so many times the wardrobe department can expand the waist of my trousers!
If you could invent your own Wonka chocolate bar, what would it be?
I mean, I would eat anything in chocolate, but I’d want to combine mint and orange as they’re my two favourite flavours.
You’ve had an impressive stage career from The Phantom of the Opera to Les Miserables and Made in Dagenham. What are you most looking forward to about touring the UK and Ireland with this production?
I’ve spent so much time in London working, so I’m looking forward to revisiting the cities and towns across the countries. I haven’t toured for 20-years. The last time I toured was when I played Harold in The Full Monty, which was a blast.
What do you hope audiences take away from this new production?
I hope audiences leave with a tear in the eye and a big smile on their face. I think the production is very moving, especially towards the end, and it is also great fun. I’d love to sit out and watch it myself!
Is there a piece of advice you’ve received or that you would pass on to anyone hoping to go into the creative industry?
You’ve got to put in the hard work, because it is hard work. You’ve got to be prepared to commit yourself 100% because the industry is notoriously difficult for actors or any other person working in theatre. If someone loves acting and they feel they can’t do anything else and that’s all they want to do, then they’re already halfway there.
top image: CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Courtesy of Johan Persson.
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