With a golden ticket in hand I was absolutely thrilled to attend last week’s premier of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the amazing new musical based on Roald Dahl’s beloved novel.

Playing at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre, the musical was greatly anticipated after a hugely successful 6 month season at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

While there are five boys for the role of Charlie Bucket, that evening, the role of was played by Lenny Thomas, who did a beautiful job bringing the character to life, with the same warm and humble persona readers and audiences will remember in the film and novel.

The stage production was incredible, paying full homage to the original, while also bringing in modern references with a wicked touch of humour. Musically there are definitely the classics which take adult audiences back to their childhood and a few net additions.

Without giving too much away, audiences are taken deeper into the origins story of the main character, how they came to be where they are and just what made Willy Wonker the greatest chocolatier.

Willy Wonka, the most amazing, fantastic, extraordinary chocolate maker the world has ever seen, is played by Paul Slade Smith. Slade Smith was part of the original Broadway cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, appearing as Grandpa George.

Grandpa Joe, an enthusiastic storyteller and eternal optimist, is played by Australian show business royalty Tony Sheldon, wiinner of the 2019 Helpmann Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his role.

In the role of Mrs Bucket, a kind, caring mother and a woman of few words, is Lucy Maunder. Most recently Lucy played songwriter Cynthia Weil in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and prior to that toured New Zealand, Adelaide and Perth in Matilda: The Musical, in which she played Miss Honey and was nominated for a Helpmann Award. For the Gordon Frost Organisation, Lucy played Lara in Dr Zhivago and Rizzo in Grease.

Jake Fehily and Octavia Barron Martin play Augustus Gloop and Mrs Gloop, Karina Russell and Stephen Anderson are Veruca Salt and Mr Salt, Jayme-Lee Hanekom plays Violet Beauregard with Madison McKoy as Mr Beauregard, and Harrison Riley and Jayde Westaby are Mike Teavee and his mother Mrs Teavee.

Completing the wonderfully talented cast are Johanna Allen, Sheridan Anderson, Hayden Baum, Kanen Breen, Bayley Edmends, Bronte Florian, Todd Goddard, Madison Green, David Hammond, Sasha Lian-Diniz, Aaron Lynch, Jordan Malone, Kassie Martin, Phoenix Mendoza, Joseph Naim, Adam Noviello, Glen Oliver, Danielle O’Malley, Jackson Reedman, Emma Russell, Taylor Scanlan and Thalia Smith.

Roald Dahl began working on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1961, but its origins can be traced all the way back to Dahl’s own childhood. In his autobiography, Boy, he tells us how, while at school in England, he and his fellow Repton students were engaged as ‘taste testers’ for a chocolate company – something that seems to have started him thinking about chocolate factories and inventing rooms long before Mr Wonka was on the scene.

But when he came to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the story went through several drafts until the story as we now know it was released in 1964.

Producers John Frost, Craig Donnell, Warner Bros Theatre Ventures, Langley Park Productions and Neal Street Productions are thrilled with their talented cast.

“We have found such a gloriously talented bunch of performers to create Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Australia,” they said. “The world fell in love with Roald Dahl’s bewitching tale when the book was released, then filmgoers adored the 1971 film with Gene Wilder. Now this fabulous cast is enchanting audiences with the story once again on stage.”

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