Guide to Roald Dahl on stage

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to James and the Giant Peach, discover all the classic Roald Dahl stories that have been adapted for the stage.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Given the sheer brilliance of author Roald Dahl’s output, which has thrilled multiple generations of eager young readers (and plenty of adults too), perhaps it’s no surprise that his work has become a theatrical staple too. After all, these are marvellously inventive tales, teeming with vivid characters, exciting plots, resonant themes, and a rebellious spirit.

Thanks to Dahl, we have beloved family musicals like West End staple Matilda, now in its twelfth year, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is currently touring the UK. There’s also James and the Giant Peach, adapted into a stage show by none other than Benj Pasek and Justin Paul – and, coming up this winter, the hugely anticipated new adaptation of The Witches at the National Theatre.

So, read on for our guide to Roald Dahl on stage – and book your golden ticket to those London shows now!

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Matilda The Musical

Sometimes, you have to be a little bit naughty! So says the awesome heroine of Matilda The Musical, the child genius – with telekinetic powers – who rebels against her mean family and her terrifying headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, with the help of her friends and teacher, Miss Honey.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s magical adaptation of Matilda, by Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly, premiered in Stratford and then moved to the West End in 2011. It proved a mammoth hit with audiences and went on to win seven Olivier Awards, including a shared Best Actress award for the four Matildas. It’s still a treat for grown-ups and revolting children alike.

Book Matilda The Musical tickets now on London Theatre.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Dahl’s work of pure imagination got the stage musical treatment from an impressive team in 2013: a book by leading Scottish playwright David Greig, music by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray, current Broadway hit Some Like It Hot), and directed by Oscar and Olivier winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty, The Lehman Trilogy).

The show premiered at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane and won two Oliviers. It has since played on Broadway, toured America and Australia, and is right now touring the UK and Ireland, finishing in Glasgow in 2024 – so you’ve still got time to book your tour of Willy Wonka’s astonishing factory.

James and the Giant Peach

This quirky tale centres on an orphaned boy living with his cruel aunts, who crawls into a huge peach and befriends various creatures, such as Miss Spider and Silkworm. Together, they escape in the peach and travel all the way to New York City.

That American element made James and the Giant Peach perfect fodder for Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen). Their show premiered at Godspeed Musicals in Connecticut in 2010, and there have since been reworked versions at the Kennedy Center, in Seattle and Toronto, plus a 2015 cast album featuring Christian Borle, Megan Hilty, Sarah Stiles, Brian d’Arcy James and Skylar Astin.

The Enormous Crocodile

Dahl’s stories are a wonderful introduction to theatre for young audiences – and that looks set to continue with a musical premiere this December. Get ready for The Enormous Crocodile, an adaptation of the vivid picture book by Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab, Suhayla El-Bushra and Tom Brady.

This co-production, which begins at Leeds Playhouse and travels to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in summer 2024, is directed by Emily Lim (The Odyssey at the National Theatre) and features puppets by co-director Toby Olié (War Horse, 101 Dalmatians). It promises to be a real family treat – with bite!

Check back soon for information about The Enormous Crocodile tickets on London Theatre.

The Magic Finger

Another wonderful outing for young audiences, Dahl’s mischievous tale comes to London’s Unicorn Theatre in spring 2024. The story follows the Gregg family, who spend every Saturday cruelly hunting animals and birds in the woods until the girl next door sets her magic finger on them…

This new theatrical reading will be directed by Milli Bhatia (the Olivier-nominated seven methods of killing kylie jenner), and not only will you be able to go see it at the Unicorn Theatre, but it will also be released online for free so that schools and families everywhere can enjoy it.

The Witches

One of the major London openings this winter is the National Theatre’s new musical adaptation of Dahl’s The Witches. This spooky story sees brave 10-year-old Luke and his beloved Gran trying to thwart the evil plans of the titular villains: to squallop every stinking little child in England.

This musical has serious creative pedigree, with a book by Lucy Kirkwood (Olivier winner for Chimerica), score by Dave Malloy (Tony nominee for Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812), and direction by Lyndsey Turner (The Crucible at the National and West End). Katherine Kingsley leads the cast as the terrifying Grand High Witch. Prepare to be spellbound!

Check back soon for information about The Witches tickets on London Theatre.

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