With his hat and his coat at the ready, Douglas Hodge is set to play the eccentric confectioner Willy Wonka in the West End’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, opening tomorrow. It was announced earlier this year that a musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic tale would be coming to the stage on June 25 and from there the wait began.
Like the original story, the show follows young Charlie Bucket, as he and a group of children are invited into the amazing yet mysterious world of Willy Wonka and his magnificent chocolate factory. There they discover Oompa-Loompas, rivers of chocolate, sticks of gums in flavors you can only imagine, and much more.
Influenced by icons such as Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Salvador Dali, and Fred Astaire, Hodge’s portrayal of the character has been described as a mix of the two previous Wonka’s – Gene Wilder’s 1971 version, and Johnny Depp in 2010. In an interview, Hodge explained how his portrayal also shows different aspects to the character, including a slightly darker side than the two previous incarnations. The shows director, Academy Award winner Sam Mendes (Cabaret, Skyfall), has said that it is Hodge’s phenomenal talent that makes his portrayal more three-dimensional.
In images released of the actor in costume, Willy Wonka’s outfit is indeed properly wonky. Filled with an array of elaborate patterns, a striking purple and blue coat, eye-catching green pants, and orange waistcoat, the character is already putting the eccentric in eccentricity. Extra photos of other characters on set and in costume heighten the anticipation for the musicals opening.
However, it is not just the grand sets, costumes, and musical numbers we are looking forward to. Extravagance aside, Hodge has spoken about how there may be impressive decorations and fantastic music, but what is important is to do the original story justice, and give a performance that will move audiences.
Born in Plymouth, Devon, the English actor attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and in addition to having a multitude of stage credits under his belt, including Cyrano de Bergerac, Guys and Dolls, and La Cage aux Folles (for which he won both a Tony and an Olivier Award), he is also familiar with both the TV and film world. Perhaps most recently known for his role in the TV mini-series The Town, he has also been in Robin Hood and Vanity Fair. Besides his acting talents, Hodge is a member of the National Youth Theatre council, and also made his directorial debut in 2003 with a short film.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory began previews May 18 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and will officially open tomorrow, June 25. With music and lyrics done by Grammy winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and a book by David Greig, the show looks like it will be spectacular. Other cast members include Jack Costello, Tom Klenerman, Isaac Rouse, and Louis Suc alternating as Charlie Bucket, Nigel Planer as Grandpa Joe, Myra Sands as Grandma Georgina, and many others.