Charlie and the Chocolate Musical: Inside Sam Mendes' 10 million talent factory
21:30 GMT, 6 September 2012
On stage: Douglas Hodge is set to star as Willy Wonka in the musical adaption of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Award-winning actor Douglas Hodge is getting his snozberries in a row to play wacky chocolatier Willy Wonka in Sam Mendes’ 10 million musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.
He follows in the footsteps of Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp, who played the secretive sweet-maker in the two big screen versions of Dahl’s beloved novel.
Hodge was made an offer he couldn’t refuse: who could turn down the opportunity to star in a show that features toffee-apple trees, lickable wallpaper, hot ice cream for cold days, and cows that produce chocolate-flavoured milk All make-believe, to be sure.
Hodge had been toying with the possibility of portraying showman P. T. Barnum in a revival of the musical Barnum (never one of my favourites, although Michael Crawford was great in the London production), but decided, instead, that it’s much more exciting to work with Mendes and re-create Wonka for the stage.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory will start previewing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on May 18 next year, with an official first night sometime in June.
Mendes told associates he wanted a ‘proper actor’ for the role of Wonka, and not just some big name, no talent telly star, and he certainly didn’t want to cast it by putting on one of those God-awful, hive-inducing, TV casting shows.
Hodge is a classically-trained actor who can sing, dance and act. He won Olivier and Tony awards for La Cage Aux Folles and, in a week’s time, he begins essaying Cyrano de Bergerac for director Jamie Lloyd.
Mendes had other names on a list for Wonka, but felt Hodge fitted his vision.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory will feature new songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, with a book by David Greig.
On screen: Johnny Depp played Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's 2005 adaption of the classic children's book
Peter Darling, who created the brilliant dance numbers for Billy Elliot and Matilda (also based on a Dahl novel), will provide the choreography, while set designer Mark Thompson will bring to life Wonka’s fantasy factory with its river of chocolate.
Meanwhile, Mendes has been preparing for the world premiere of Skyfall, the new James Bond film, which he’s directed, next month in London. Those who have seen it tell me it’s an A+ knockout.
Going out with a bang (and a flash!)
You just wished the cameras had been rolling for the final Broadway performance of One Man, Two Guvnors, if only to capture the packed audience’s reaction to all manner of unscripted on-stage hijinks, which included Jemima Rooper flashing her breasts to James Corden.
Every member of the cast had an extra gag up his or her sleeve, or in Ms Rooper’s case, under her blouse.
‘Yes, they were all hers,’ James revealed when I double-checked backstage in his dressing room, as they were flashed directly to him not the audience. ‘I can’t believe I did that. It was a shambles,’ Ms Rooper joked later.
Last night antics: Jemima Rooper flashed her goodies to a surprised James Corden
Oliver Chris who plays Rooper’s onstage boyfriend, did a bit of exposure of his own. Pictures of James’s face were printed on to the rear and front of Chris’s white briefs and all was revealed when Chris dropped his trousers in Act II.
The last performance at the Music Box Theatre was one of those rare events that will be talked about for years by the people lucky enough to be there. The National Theatre production, the funniest show on the planet (and that must be true, because it says so on a poster alongside my name outside the theatre), won a Tony for James and closed having recouped its costs.
James called his role as cheeky Francis Henshall, ‘the part of a lifetime’, adding ‘to have a play written for you and put on by the National Theatre is just not something that happens every day’.
Curtain call: James Corden and Jemima Rooper (all dressed) on stage in One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway
He revealed that he and One Man director Nicholas Hytner are discussing doing another play. ‘I’d give anything to go back to the National Theatre to be in a play directed by Nick before he hangs up his tenure as artistic director.’ He noted though, as has Hytner a while back, that One Man wouldn’t work as a piece of cinema.
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Talking of movies, James will soon start filming the story of Britain’s Got Talent tenor Paul Potts. James plays Paul, with Julie Walters and Colm Meaney as his parents, Alexandra Roach (the young Mrs Thatcher in The Iron Lady) as his girlfriend, and Mackenzie Crook as his best friend.
James is set to do other projects on both sides of the Atlantic, but his most pressing engagement is next weekend when he will marry his fiance Julia Carey.
‘Jules has made all this possible,’ he said, as his eyes filled with tears as he hugged the love of his life.
He said he will always remain close to his fellow cast mates and I think it fitting I list the main ensemble here: Oliver Chris, Jemima Rooper, Tom Edden, Martyn Ellis, Trevor Laird, Claire Lams, Fred Ridgeway, Daniel Rigby, and Suzie Toase.
Lucy's play is just the job
Lucy Kirkwood's new play is Not Safe For Work
Lucy Kirkwood has been on my radar for a while.
She’s had plays on at The Bush, the National and written a couple of episodes of Skins for Channel 4.
Now a cracking cast is about to go into rehearsal for her new play at the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Downstairs.
Called NSFW, which stands for Not Safe For Work, it apparently refers to viewing online content that may not be suitable to look at in public or at your desk at work.
Ms Kirkwood’s comedy peeks at privacy in the media and those old standbys: sex and money.
The play runs from October 25 and the ensemble includes the award-winning Janie Dee.
I love that she performs in every genre and discipline and has cleverly not allowed herself to be typecast as just a musical theatre actress.
She’s joined by Kevin Doyle, who plays Molesley the pasty-faced butler in Downton; Sacha Dhawan, who was in the original company of The History Boys and in upcoming TV drama The Last Tango In Halifax; Henry Lloyd Hughes, who was in Posh and the TV and film versions of The Inbetweeners; and up and coming actress Esther Smith.
The National Theatre’s in discussions with West End venues about transferring Marianne Elliott’s production of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.
The show, based on Mark Haddon’s novel, is enjoying a sold-out run at the NT’s Cottesloe Theatre.
However, there’s concern the design and special effects may not fit comfortably into a regular West End house.
Perhaps the NT should investigate, long-term, whether it could buy, or better still, build, a theatre in the heart of the commercial West End so they could move projects back and forth as they saw fit. That would certainly set off culture wars in theatreland. Non-profit theatres in New York have done it…