One week on from my slightly disappointing viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I once again found myself sat in the front row of the Theatre Royal in Nottingham. This time I was there with my family (all except Bug, who is far too young and feral for the theatre) to watch “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”.
Freya and I had been eagerly anticipating this visit for months. Freya was excited because, well, she gets excited about pretty much anything. I, on the other hand was looking forward to the show because “Chitty” is one of my favourite childhood films. It’s always a little worrying when you go to watch an adaption of material that you love, but I really didn’t need to be concerned.
The production was totally true to the feel and charm of the classic film, even if small elements were changed to better suit a theatre production. Some characters were enhanced, some were toned down. Some musical numbers were added; some moved around to help with plotting and tempo.
The show boasted an impressive cast list, with Lee Mead as Caracatus Potts, Shaun Williamson and Michelle Collins as the Baron and Baroness of Vulgaria and Carrie Hope Fletcher as Truly Scrumptious. (Interesting trivia fact: Carrie also played the role of Jemima in the original London cast of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).
Lee Mead was wonderful as Caracatus Potts, although it cannot be easy to step into the shoes of someone as iconic as Dick Van Dyke. Mead’s performance was utterly charming and believable. His rapport with the children was delightful and he took the character on a journey from bumbling single father to the unintentional hero he becomes by the end. As well as having a soothing singing voice, he also proved his dancing skills, with an energetic “Old Bamboo” and the famous Ragdoll scene at the end of the show.
Possibly my two favourite performances came from Sam Harrison and Scott Paige as the Vulgarian spies, Boris and Goran. They were the perfect comedy duo, with wonderful slapstick humour and thinly veiled double entendre (for the grown ups). I loved every single moment they were on stage and could easily have shouted for more.
The Childcatcher was only a very minor role in the production, with his on-stage time being remarkably less than I had anticipated. However I still thought Matt Gillett was utterly mesmerising as the sinister villain who has been terrorising the children of Vulgaria. His entrance, heralded by the shadow of his hands creeping down the scenery, before revealing his dramatic and all too familiar silhouette was breathtaking. He gave the role just the right amount of menace, without being so scary that children ran screaming from the theatre. (Although Moogle did cuddle just a little closer to her daddy!)
The staging and set design were incredibly exciting and innovative. I particularly loved the use of projection to help with the dramatic car chases and invasion of the Vulgarian war ships. The production design team clearly had tons of imagination and knowledge of how to use a modern theatre to help transport the audience to this fantasy world.
It wouldn’t be a review of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang without mentioning the eponymous vehicle itself. Even though I was well aware of all of her hidden secrets, it was still exciting to watch as she became a character of the show in her own right and transformed in front of our eyes. Oh yeah – and spoiler alert – she flies! Being a regular at the Theatre Royal I had already guessed how they would pull off this feat, but it was fun to watch Moogle’s jaw drop as the car rose above with stage, while the cast sang the song that we all know so well. (And haven’t been able to get out of our heads for the past week!)
One thing that I absolutely adored about this production was the ensemble cast. Not only were they all fabulously talented (as one would expect from a professional tour) but they were also so diverse. It was so refreshing to see a show where the cast were not all cut from the same mould – I’d love to see more of the same in future shows please!!
As you’ve probably gathered I absolutely loved the show and would highly recommend this to anyone, even if you weren’t a fan of the original film. Although the show is perfectly suited for children, there were a lot of unaccompanied adults in the audience and they all seemed to have a splendid time too! Even Moogle’s dad, who hated the film version and isn’t a fan of musical theatre in general, had a wonderful evening and had to admit that he thought the show was great!
Oh, and I couldn’t write this review without giving a special thank you to the very kind Theatre Royal employee who helped me to retrieve my programme which slipped into the orchestra pit! I didn’t get her name (doh!) but she was so lovely and helpful and I really appreciated it! Thank you!!
That’s all of our theatre trips for May, but I do have lots more planned for the coming months so if you enjoyed these reviews please pop back regularly to see more of the same. And feel free to share these with friends who may be interested in these or other shows.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is on at the Theatre Royal until 29th May and is touring the Uk for the rest of the year. Check out their website for more details.
Have you seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the theatre? Leave me a comment to let me know what you thought? Or are you going to see it soon? Let me know if there are any other shows you’d recommend – I’m always interested in checking out new things.