A CHOCOLATE river, a giant squirrel, colourful lollipops towering over the audience, a lift which takes you up into the clouds, and fireworks on stage.

The catchphrase 'a world of pure imagination' doesn't even begin to do this show justice. 

There's just so much to feast your senses on following the hotly anticipated arrival of the musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in Southampton.

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Every little detail is considered in this delicious retelling of Roald Dahl's classic book. It starts as soon as you enter the theatre as the delightful aroma of chocolate wafts across the foyer. 

The special effects are among the best I've ever seen with incredible video projections taking you deep into the world of Willy Wonka. 

The first act of this rags to riches story is set to the backdrop of a grey junkyard where young Charlie Bucket (captured beautifully by star of the future Harmony Raine-Riley) finds unlikely treasures for her poverty-stricken family while dreaming of what lies beyond the gates of the town's secretive chocolate factory. 

Daily Echo: Gareth Snook 'Willy Wonka' and Noah Walton 'Charlie Bucket' in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Her four grandparents all share one bed at the ramshackle hovel the Bucket family call home. That is until Grandpa Joe leaps up and bursts into song at the news that Charlie has found a golden ticket to go behind the scenes at the factory. This is one of the more memorable new numbers, alongside the classics The Candy Man and Pure Imagination from the beloved 1971 film. 

If anyone deserves the golden ticket it's this budding inventor and certainly not the other - hilariously grotesque - ticket holders. 

The show bursts into glowing technicolor with the arrival of Willy Wonka played by Gareth Snook, who manages to portray just the right level of strange without being sinister in the Johnny Depp vein.

Daily Echo: A scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

It's the factory that steals the show as we journey deep inside a place where sweets rule and Oompa Loompas sing. 

Veruca Salt's encounter with a gigantic squirrel has to be seen to be believed, in fact every scene inside the factory is an utter delight. 

My companions, aged five to 75, were completely spellbound. 

Daily Echo: A scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This really is the golden ticket.

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory runs until September 3. Tickets from mayflower.org.uk