A childhood favourite for most – but for me in particular – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been brought to the stage and is currently touring the UK. Catching up with it during it’s pit-stop at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham, I was delirious with excitement.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tells the story of crackpot inventor, Caractacus Potts (played by Lee Mead) and his two adorable, imaginative children Jeremy (Henry Kent) and Jemima (Lucy Sherman). Along with Grandpa Potts (Andy Hockley), Caractacus is trying to raise his children the best way he can, with love and laughs. The children fall in love with an old rusty car they play with at the local garage – their imagination takes them all over the world in this car. When Jeremy and Jemima learn the car is soon to be sold, they beg their father to buy it for them. Through his unusual inventions and sheer tenacity, Caractacus manages to raise the money to buy the car.
Once fixed up and looking like a whole new car, the family take it on a drive – funny noises emitting from the car earn Chitty his nickname. The trio, along with Chitty, manage to ‘bump’ into the beautiful Truly Scrumptious (Carrie Hope Fletcher), striking up a great friendship they all head off to the beach for a picnic. A huge adventure ensues at the beach which involves Barons, Childcatchers and Toymakers!
I am a huge fan of the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film, the transfer from screen to stage did not disappoint – I was scrutinising every second, but every second was enjoyable. Watching the show I felt like I was a child again, my daughter was rolling her eyes and calling me embarrassing as I danced and sang along to all of the songs. When ‘Toot Sweets’ was on it was a real magical musical number to watch. I can’t tell you what part was my favourite as the whole show was just mesmerising.
Lee Mead did and amazing job as Caractacus Potts, I really felt for him on the ‘Me Ol Bamboo’ routine. It’s such a famous and difficult routine that Dick Van Dyke made his own, but Lee Mead (and the whole ensemble) pulled it off to perfection – I was exhausted watching! Connie Hope Fletcher was a great cast as Truly Scrumptious, Carrie has such a beautiful singing voice and fully captured the elegance of Truly – as Grandpa Potts says ‘not ‘arf’.
Matt Gillett was suitable scary as the Childcatcher, his scenes made you shiver in your shoes – no lollipops for me thank you very much!
Michelle Collins and Shaun Williamson were a very funny duo as the Baron and Baroness, my favourite song from Chitty is ‘Chu Chi Face’ and they did it really well and full of laughs. It was a slightly more lovey dovey ‘Chu Chi’ version than the film, but it was still a joy to watch – and sing.
For the Baron’s birthday scene I didn’t quite ‘get’ the Bombie Samba addition. It was performed really well by the cast and was fun to watch, I just wasn’t sure that it fit well into the show – but that could be just my traditionalist side talking. Carrie Hope Fletcher’s ‘Doll on a Music Box’ was done with such grace, a difficult routine to perfect but she smashed it.
Everything about the show was captivating – the set was so detailed, and the way the set all moved around from one scene to the next, along with use of projection, just heightened your imagination and enjoyment. When Chitty moves and flies, the amazement from the audience is visible. The only thing that dampened my enjoyment (only slightly) was that I felt the smoke machine person may have been a little trigger happy.
There was too much smoke covering the stage on a few occasions but at one specifically badly timed point – when Chitty’s floats emerged so he could float on the water you couldn’t see the reveal through the smoke.
I can’t finish without mentioning the hilarious Boris (Sam Harrison) and Goran (Scott Paige). Their portrayal of the Baron’s spies was brilliant, they had me laughing out loud every time they were on the stage. A perfect comedy duo – own show in future maybe?
You must go and see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the theatre whilst you can – sing your heart out with the cast and feel ‘fantasmagorical’ for a couple of hours. Now, where’s that soundtrack CD…?