Sam Mendes Drops Out of Broadway-Bound 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'

Helen Maybanks
Douglas Hodge in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'

The 'Skyfall' and 'Spectre' director cites scheduling difficulties with upcoming film projects but will remain on board as a producer through his Neal Street banner.

The stage musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has been the subject of New York transfer talk since it opened in London in summer 2013, will get a new director before it reaches Broadway.

Sam Mendes staged the show in the West End at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where it overcame mixed reviews and is still running more than two years later. But he has confirmed that he will not continue as director of the musical on Broadway, where it is slated to arrive during the 2016-17 season.

Mendes' Neal Street Productions teamed with Warner Bros. Theater Ventures and Langley Park Productions on the show, which features a book by Scottish playwright David Greig and a score by the Hairspray team of composer Marc Shaiman and lyricists Scott Wittman and Shaiman. While Mendes reportedly made the decision to withdraw from the U.S. transfer as director some time back, he will remain on board as a producer and is expected to be involved in the choice of a replacement director.

"I knew I couldn't marry the time commitment to make a Broadway production with the development of my next projects for Neal Street," Mendes said in a statement. "So instead I'm continuing to serve as a producer as the show evolves for its new life in the U.S."

While nothing has so far been confirmed, the name circulating among theater pundits to step in as director is Jack O'Brien, the three-time Tony Award winner who collaborated with Shaiman and Wittman on Hairspray, a massive hit that ran more than eight years on Broadway, and on their musical adaptation of Catch Me If You Can, a critical and commercial disappointment that closed after only five months in 2011.

Post-London plans for Charlie have always been contingent on Mendes' schedule, given that he was finishing up on Skyfall while the show was in preparation and then plunged into Spectre soon after the musical opened in June 2013. His fellow producers on the show include Mark Kaufman for Warners, Kevin McCormack for Langley Park and Pippa Harris and Caro Newling for Neal Street.

The extent to which the original production will be changed for Broadway remains to be determined once a new director is in place, as does the casting. Douglas Hodge, a Tony winner for La Cage aux Folles, originated the lead role of Willy Wonka in the West End. More detailed news concerning Broadway plans is expected to be announced in early 2016.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will be the second musical adaptation of a Dahl story to reach Broadway in recent years, following Matilda, which opened in spring 2013 and has gone on to gross $150 million, also launching a national tour.