As a child, I absolutely adored Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, so logically I wanted to see it on its tour. If any of you have read my previous blogs, you would have seen it was in my ‘Top 5 Musicals to See’. In addition, the production had a few celebrities starring, so I was interested to see how they would perform.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about a car that has the ability to go on water, land and can also fly. It was built from an old winning grand prix car by Caractacus Potts, who, with son (Jeremy), daughter (Jemima), Grandpa and a new friend (Truly Scrumptious), go on thrilling adventures. One such example is when the Baron and Baroness Bomburst of ‘Vulguria’, who want the car, take Grandpa and they must go and rescue him.
The comedian, Jason Manford, played Caractacus Potts, the lead role. I was very sceptical of him, especially as he replaced Jon Robyns, whom I enjoyed very much when I saw him in Memphis last year. I have to admit; I am a fan of his. He was extremely likable and had that real father figure needed for the role. His vocals were far better than expected. Overall I thought he was superb! My only criticism was that, having seen him on the television, I was expecting him to portray a far more comical role than he actually did. But then that was down to the role not being able to accommodate this, which was a shame.
Caractacus’s children, Jeremy (Henry Kent) and Jemima (Lucy Sherman) were beyond amazing, with their vocals, acting and dancing all on point, despite their age! Truly Scrumptious (Amy Griffiths) who I have to say played the role very well. My only criticism was that she did not leave her mark on the role. This meant, when I came out of the theatre, I was not really thinking about her role. Grandpa Potts was played by Andy Hockley. Prior to the start, my friend made me aware that Andy had been in Phantom of the Opera, so this increased my expectations. He certainly did not disappoint. His vocals were on point and if I am honest, he was perfect for the role through his entertaining and comical ways.
The Baron Bomburst (Phill Jupitus) was fair. I found his accent to be inconsistent and in general unconvincing, but he did have some golden moments. The Baroness (Michelle Collins) was good, but I really struggle to say much more. The Child Catcher (Martin Kemp) was not at all intimidating especially when comparing him to the film. In the film, he bought genuine fear to my eyes. I am unsure as to whether this is due to me no longer being a child, that he did not have enough stage presence, or maybe he was just not right for the role. The two Vulgarian spies, Boris (Sam Harrison) and Goran (Scott Paige) were enjoyable for the most part. Their jokes I found only half the time to be funny, but even so it was enough for me to enjoy them!
One of the main attractions of the show is seeing the car ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ on stage. It looked incredible and the mechanics used to manoeuvre were clearly well done. It was agile and looked quite elegant. When the car was being driven, there were projections onto the set to show the surroundings. It looked really good and was highly affective. There was enough detail and clarity to feel like they were actually driving along a coastal road etc.
The pit band, I could not fault as their timing was on point and the music always sounded as it should. The ensemble performed some very clever choreography with the most memorable being ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ which by the end gave a slight shiver down my spine. I could remember this well from the film and it made me feel like a little kid again seeing it for the first time. In the film, my favourite parts were the inventions Caractacus made. I was excited in the breakfast scene that these were present as it gave me flashbacks to the film and the happiness it brought to me back then!
Overall, I really enjoyed the touring production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and you could see why it appeals to such a wide age group. Although some of the characters were in my opinion just okay, the other characters more than made up for this. As I left the theatre, I could not help but feel there was something missing. There was not a completely empowering moment where I just thought ‘wow’. But it cannot be denied that they put on a very good production of a childhood classic and left me feeling like my 8-year-old self again!