Reading this, you’ll probably think I hated Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But you’d be wrong. I guess the problem I had was high expectations as this is one of my favourite childhood films. Another complication is that this year I have seen a large amount of productions, some of which have been out of this world. Therefore, the benchmark had been set.
My initial impression was that the set was a little dull. Seeing Mary Poppins earlier this year explode into a myriad of colours, I was hoping for something of the same. Not so, unfortunately. Then there was the actual performance of the lead roles. I found delivery of lines to be stilted and have to say, I was disappointed with Lee Mead as Caractacus Potts. Although an excellent singer, his acting, at times, was wooden. Similarly, Phil Jupitus (Baron Bomburst) and Claire Sweeny (Baroness Bomburst) were nothing to shout about, seeming to go through the motions. So much for the big names in the production. Of the billed principals, only Carrie Hope Fletcher gave a five star performance as Truly Scrumptious.
I will say, on the other hand, Henry Kent and Lucy Sherman as Jeremy and Jemima were both excellent, the latter showing a strong professional voice for her age. The kids really put the adults to shame at times with their energy.
I’ve spoken about the set already but also felt the car was a let down. In addition, technical faults had the wings failing to open at the climax of Act One. I know it’s hard to make believe a car can fly, but this one didn’t come close. And speaking of things not being realistic, what the flip was that all about with the tin dog?
Another failure of the show was the poor use of the Child Catcher (Matt Gillett). Very limited in appearances and the song Kiddy-Widdy-Winkies, totally cut. I will say, I’m not sorry about the song as although I’m a fan of creepy, I find Kiddy-Widdy-Winkies to be perversely disturbing. However, the production could still have done more with the character. Also missing in action was the number, Us Two/Chitty Prayer where Jeremy and Jemima sing for help and are rescued. Not a massive song, I admit, but important all the same and a real Daddy, my Daddy tear jerker. What you had instead was Grandpa Potts more or less saying, ‘Hey, I found these two locked in a dungeon.’ Rubbish cop out.
Still, there were good moments of song and dance, notably Me Ol’ Bamboo, Truly Scrumptious, Posh! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, itself. My favourite overall, though, was Teamwork, especially the performance of the children in the sewers. On the down side, I found The Bombie Samba, although well choreographed, nothing more than a filler and wanted to shout out, get on with it!
Also appearing were Andy Hockley (Grandpa Potts), Ewen Cummins (The Toymaker), Sam Harrison (Boris) and Scott Paige (Goran). The two spies added great comic moments, helped by a good script.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was produced by John Stalker, directed by James Brining, choreographed by Stephen Mear with musical direction from Andrew Hilton.
As I mentioned at the start, it wasn’t the case that I hated the show, I did actually enjoy it, but it could have been so much better. I felt I was simply watching a show when what I really wanted was to experience it.