“ London Palladium, Argyll Street, West End, Greater London, W1A 3AB. Tel: (020) 7494 5020. „
Yesterday afternoon I had the most enjoyable visit to the theatre to see the most charming Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. What a show, one in a million and the car, wow it was very difficult to see how it actually flied on the stage. They pulled this one off magnificently, very impressed with the cars techniques. The car itself had to be the star of the show.
I have some very fond memories as a child sat on my Dad's knee watching this film so I obviously had to have this in my DVD collection, I said i bought this for my kids but it was difinetly for me!! So when the show was coming to our home town I jumped at the chance to see this.
The cast of the production were amazing and the child catcher was very scary dressed in black leather with that famous hook and crooked hat. Lots of bangs and explosions so if you're child has a fear of these things then best not take them into see this show, it can be a bit scary for young kids. The last thing you want is to have to come away from your show due to your kid screaming the place down!
I was in fits of laughter when Potts took his hair cutting machine to the carnival to make some money to buy chitty. Like in the film he goes like hammer and tongs to cut the guys hair and low and behold it comes out very very bald. He chases Potts round the carnival until he bursts into song and dance with the 'old bamboo' brilliant.
Toot sweets and P-O-S-H were just superb, there were even dogs on the stage. To be honest I can't fault this show, every song was excellent and in parts even made me come over all goosebumpy.
First class fantasmagorical show....
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of those wonderful family musical films that I grew up with and remember fondly from my childhood! It is such a lovely story and film that a while ago I bought the DVD for my daughters and they absolutely fell in love with it too! When I discovered that the touring production was coming to our local theatre - The New Victoria, Woking - I really wanted us to go and see it. However, looking into prices for reasonable seats I discovered that for the four of us to go, it would cost in excess of £120 which for only a couple of hours entertainment is very expensive. Therefore, I decided not to bother. That was until last week, when an email came from the theatre saying that for the second Monday and Tuesday performances, all children accompanied by an adult would go free. That is how, for half the price we originally expected to pay, we found ourselves in Woking last week watching this wonderful show!
For those of you who don't know the story, it is about an old racing car. At the start of the show, it is a state of dreadful disrepair until young Jeremy and Jemima Potts persuade their inventor father to buy it. Caractacus Potts does the car up in his workshop and eventually there emerges a gleaming shining star which they take out for a drive. On their way they notice that the car has very particular sounds - there's a chitty, chitty followed by a bang - which is how the car gets its name of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They travel to the seaside but along the way run into a very rich and beautiful lady - Truly Scrumptious - who becomes their friends. Chitty is no ordinary car though and attracts the attention of Baron Bombast of Vulgaria. His men go to all sorts of measures to capture the car and in order to get away, Chitty first turns into a floating car and then a magical flying car!
The family fly to Vulgaria to rescue their Grandpa who has been captured but it soon becomes apparent that no children are allowed in Vulgaria, and Jeremy and Jemima fall victim to the villainous childcatcher! All sorts happen to rescue Grandpa and the children and at the heart of the action and playing no less a part than any person is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
We really did enjoying watching the stage version of the film and I did think that it worked very well. I wondered how they were going to get a car to float and then to fly, but they did and I still haven't worked out how! The effect of the car flying was very magical and exciting to the girls and they could hardly believe their eyes!
There were not any well known names starring in the touring version but that does not take away from any of the truly professional performances. Everyone was very good although, personally, I did not like the way that the character of Truly Scrumptious came across. I have to mention the performances of the two children who starred as they were absolutely superb. There are four sets of children who appear, but if they are all as good as the two we saw you would be in for a treat! I was a bit scared that the Childcatcher may prove a bit too scary for my youngest daughter, and although he is quite nasty, he does not appear for long and she did not seem to be too bothered by him - thanks goodness!
Obviously, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a musical and I loved hearing all the songs that I enjoyed in the film. They are not all included though, and there are a couple of new numbers as well which were very good. It was also a bit of fun when it was the Baron's birthday party that it had a bit of a Brazilian theme and all of the guests were dancing the Salsa.
I think that the film transferred very well to the stage. There was enough of the original to satisfy any CCBB diehards but the new additions gave it a sense of originality too. The costumes, the dancing, the music, the special effects were all brilliant and there was a great atmosphere in the theatre with most people clapping along to the well known numbers. This went on all the way to the curtain call and it was great to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang take her place amongst all the actors as she really was the star of the show!
Our daughters, along with loving this show, loved the whole theatre experience. I would love to take them much more but it is just so expensive! I shall definitely be on the lookout for more special offers like the one that enabled us all to see this great show!
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG
Birmingham Hippodrome, Bank Holiday Monday 28th August 2006
Based on the book by Ian Fleming with Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
Starring Gary Wilmot as Caractacus Potts
Directed by Adrian Noble
The much-loved film of Ian Flemings book transferred to the stage a few years ago and here we have the national tour starring Gary Wilmot as inventor Caractacus Potts. The story will be well remembered by those of us who saw the 1960s film, starring Dick Van Dyke, which was directed by Ken Hughes, but this stage version now has additional songs by the Sherman brothers.
A great success from the start of the tour last December, to get decent seats it was necessary to book 12 weeks in advance so that tells you just how popular the show is. Last night saw a capacity audience thrilled with the elaborate special effects and sparkling dance routines. Musically there were so many charming songs and big production numbers and the introduction to the stage of small dogs for Toot Sweets had just the right aah factor! This is a show for all the family.
Gary Wilmot is perfectly cast as Caractacus and he can add this to an already impressive list of theatre credits. A genuine all round entertainer Gary has charm, a great singing voice and well honed dancing skills too. He was a hit with parents and children alike.
Marissa Dunlop was exactly right for the role of Truly Scrumptious and her costumes were stunning (designed by Anthony Ward) and she was the perfect pair to Caractacus. The much-remembered Doll on a Music Box sequence worked wonderfully and was as magical as you could get.
Paul Greenwood was a dashing Grandpa Potts and was well suited to the part. He gave Posh polish and had great rapport with the children Jeremy and Jemima who were delightful and loved every minute of it.
As Baron Bomburst, Sean Blowers was larger than life but it was Jane Gurnett as the Baroness who stole the limelight and was wonderfully exaggerated particularly at the mention of the word Children. Musically, the addition of The Bombie Samba made for another colourful production number but it also allowed the Baron and Baroness to have some fun. It worked.
The Child Catcher was played by understudy Leo Bidwell at this performance and he gave it 100% with his reward, hisses and boos every time he appeared. Again the costume was excellent but in particular his head, face and nose were frightening in the extreme.
There were so many great performances like, Boris and Goran as the spies trying to hard to be English but it was the whole cast pulling together that made for such a memorable night out. And what of Chitty, well the only thing I can say is Fantasmagorical You really do have to see it to believe it.
You can see this production next at Liverpool Empire Theatre and then at the Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh.
As a Chitty virgin, never having seen even a movie adaptation of the story, I knew precious little about the story before going to see it last night at the Palace in Manchester where the touring production is currently showing. However I knew it had a special car in it and have seen an episode of Little Britain where they mock said car's flying abilities -
"Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Do do do do do
A musical based on a book by James Bond creator Ian Fleming
Do do do do do
You'll believe a car can fly
Unless you're sitting in the stalls
When you can clearly see it's a mechanical arm "
So, I was curious to see the show myself. It's been playing in Manchester for quite a few weeks but the tickets were hideously expensive - up to £40 each - so I didn't get round to booking any when they first went on sale. However waiting paid off, as last week we received a message from the theatre on our work intranet saying that due to some cancellations they could offer 'best available' seats for only £10 each, with no booking fees. Bargain! That's how, even though it was midweek, we ended up at the theatre last night.
Weird foreigners, delightful children, eccentric inventors and an incompetent pair of spies, all of whom break into song at the drop of a hat to tell of their love, their fears, their hopes and their plans. If only life were one big musical. The story starts with twins Jeremy and Jemima coming across a broken down old car, left over from the war. They're told they can have it for themselves, saving it from the scrap yard, but only at a price - 40 shillings, considerably more than they have. Their father is a genius, an inventor extraordinaire, but unfortunately his inventions rarely get past the experimental stage, and as such don't bring in mega bucks.
However, combine a chance encounter with a turkey farmer (Mr. Matthews groan) and a chance showcasing of your dubious hair cutting machine with a chance realization that one of the inventions is much more valuable than believed and you have the chance you need to get those 40 shillings and buy the car. Trouble is brewing, however, as the Vulgarian army are themselves keen to get their hands on this magical car that can do all sorts of amazing things, and they've sent two of their team to England to steal it. After a lengthy battle in England and Vulgaria, and run-ins with some rather crazy creatures, including a toy-obsessed Barron, and an evil child catcher, the story culminates in a grand finale, with a happy-ever-after ending for some, though not all, of the characters.
The story is remarkably easy to follow, and is moved on through narrative in-between musical numbers as well as the song lyrics themselves. However, it does flit around a bit, especially in terms of the setting - one minute you're at home enjoying tea, the next you're at the beach, or a sweet factory, or a fairground, or hiding in a toy shop in a faraway country. It's a typical musical in that it has plenty of singing and dancing in it, but it also has elements of a Pantomime, especially where the child catcher is concerned - he appears and the booing is so loud you can barely hear what he has to say. The same goes for the show's well known theme tune - it cropped up a few times in the show, but each time people started clapping along so loudly that I could barely make out the words. That said, there was such a good atmosphere in the auditorium and I imagined that many of the people there weren't regular theatre goers, so it was an extra special treat for them.
Another feature of this production that reminded me of a pantomime-style show was the constant jokes, puns and double entendres that were liberally sprinkled throughout the performance.
"Truly Scrumptious Truly, eh?" says Caractacus.
"You should meet my sisters, Madly and Deeply," she replies.
"No, that's my brother"
"Are you two going to get married?"
"Why that would make me Truly Potts"
"But I am a Vulgarian can I not act Vulgar and still speak English"
"But no, that would make you an American"
Lots of them were funny, lots of them were cheesy and lots of them inspired groaning, particularly among the adults in the audience, but their presence did bring a certain something to the performance. The jokes did raise my hopes, however, that they might go so far as to include references to up-to-the-minute news stories, just as Pantos often do. I expected this even more when it was time for the song 'POSH' as they'd adapted it to be about being on a ferry from Liverpool, which in my mind was just screaming for a reference to the latest disruptions there. Alas, this didn't materialize, but I soon got over it.
Though there are various children appearing in the show, including playing two of the main characters, and though there were tons in the audience, it's not an entirely family-feel-good show. When the Baroness accidentally shoots one of her henchmen, the pop the gun made when it fired made the audience jump, and some of the little ones start to quiver. At the end when another of the characters is shot, people jumped again, and the appearance of the child catcher every so often seemed to send lots of kids jumping into their parents' laps. For me the scariest bit was the freaky clowns in the fairground scene - porcelain heads, fixed, evil grins - it was all very Stephen King. It may be marketed as a family show, but it did make me wonder how many kids would be having nightmares last night.
The stage sets and backdrops used are really remarkably limited. Besides the car, the only other items the cast really interact with are a few of Caractacus Potts' inventions and an assorted ensemble who change from guards to Samba dancers to factory workers to bring the scenes to life. The Tardis-like toy shop in the second act had potential to be so much more, I thought, and I was disappointed that at one point I was able to see the cast running on stage to hide behind it before they were uncovered properly - it was only one little slip up, but it still seemed like it should have been avoided.
Let's talk about the costumes for a moment. From years of theatre going my general conclusion has been that whether a show is touring or permanently fixed in one location isn't always reflected in the style and quality of the costumes, and instead these seems to depend more on the story, the budget and the competence of the costume designer. There's a real mix of costumes in this show: the general day-to-day clothing of the children and their inventor father, the get-up of their eccentric grandfather, Vulgarian army uniforms, the clothing for the dancing sweets in the factory, the drag commandeered by Boris and Goran to turn them into 'proper English gentlemen', but they all looked excellent, even from the back of the grand tier where we were sitting. They were generally simple get-ups, perhaps with the exception of the Baroness's suspenders-and-corset affair, but were effective and colourful.
Throughout the show I kept getting a sense of Déjà Vu - not that I'd seen the show before, but that some of the ideas were certainly familiar. Boris and Goran for example, are a bit like the Chuckle Brothers - which is interesting since one of the ensemble cast confesses in the programme biography that he once wrote for, and appeared in, Chucklevision. At the Baron's birthday party, the dancing doll he is presented with is highly reminiscent of a scene in Coppélia, and the sweet factory is nothing if not an extremely similar version of Roald Dahl's Charlie meets the Nutcracker.
The casting of the touring production varies depending on when and where you see it, but the group we had were very good and convincing, and included Kevin Kennedy (Corrie's Curly Watts) as the child catcher, and Brian Conley as Caractacus Potts. The children, perhaps, were precocious verging on annoying, but no more irritating than the kids in the first Harry Potter film. They also sang rather quietly at times, though this wasn't helped by the background noise you get in a theatre full of children. There were no obvious mistakes in the show, nor any dropped props or costumes that failed to work, and there was no evidence that anyone was having trouble with lines or lyrics. My favourite characters were the two Vulgarian spies, Boris and Goran because they were bumbling idiots who were trying to 'Act English' and who went around saying 'I'm an Eeenglish gentlemen' in voices that could just as well have carried off 'But I'm a l-a-d-y'.
The songs are generally bouncy and cheerful, but there are the few ubiquitous slower ballads, such as Hushabye Mountain which I think is just about as valuable to the story as Almost Paradise is to Footloose. You can draw your own conclusions about what I mean by that. I think probably the strangest thing is that Truly Scrumptious doesn't have her own solo which, considering she's the leading lady, is quite a rare thing for a musical. Along this line I'd also note that her character changes quite a bit in the show, from a strong character who doesn't believe in needing a man to do anything, and is a competent mechanic, to her role as a daughter who says please, bats her eyelids and gets what she wants to a woman who gets understandably distressed from having two children in her care get kidnapped, and is somewhat drippily in love as well. Because it's not real life, no mention is made to this radical change, nor to how it is that someone passing through - you'd think on her way to somewhere else - suddenly has all the time to hang around and frolic along with the singing and dancing fun.
Last, but not least, the car. The helicopter from Miss Saigon has nothing on this thing. Not only does it float on water, it also flies high into the air and at various points also tilts dangerously so you wonder whether any child has ever actually fallen out of it. It's hard to call it 'magical' since the age at which I could buy into make-believe is long gone, but you honestly cannot see how it takes off or soars through the air, and there's no tell-tale mechanical intervention that anyone can see. The atmosphere in the room surged when the car left the ground, and the applause was thunderous. My only real comment is that for an item that has the title role in a show, it's actually on stage very little, and in the air for even less of this time. I was interested to learn of the origins of its name in the show (from the chi-tty chi-tty bang bang noise it has a tendency to make), and the focus on manners they weave into the story (Chitty only flies if you say 'please') was suitably discreet rather than cringe-worthy.
Friends who know the book or film versions have told me the staging changes a few things from the original, but that the generic storyline remains the same, albeit with some subtle differences (in this version Caractacus is a widow and Truly is his 'lady friend'). It's also not all that realistic - I read one review which claimed this show has more miracles than Les Mis in it, thanks not least to the way things fall neatly into place: a strange woman happens to break down in front of the children, same woman happens to be the daughter of the owner of a sweet factory, said children happen to have a father who has just invented a revolutionary sweet, it all happens to come together nicely Similarly, lots of men are dancing, wearing matching white trousers and tops and colourful waistcoats. Running away from a newly scalped man, Caractacus pulls on an identical waistcoat and suddenly, despite his black trousers and top, he blends in seamlessly and can't be spotted by his pursuer. I remember reading an email forward once about 'Truths you learn from the stage and screen', such as how if you're walking down the street and bump into a group of people dancing, you'll automatically know the steps and be able to join in without hesitation, and that's certainly the case here, as it that other universal truth concerning the Vulgarians here: when alone, foreigners naturally prefer to speak English.
Yes, go and see it, but also be warned that because it is seen as a show for kids, you might have a disrupted time. I have never had to squeeze in for so many people to go the toilet mid scene, or for parents to take their kids out to calm them down or shut them up. At the start you could barely hear the orchestra over the rustling of sweet wrappers, or the fizz-pop you get when you open a bottle of cola. It was like being in a Saturday afternoon showing of the latest Disney film, something I would normally actively avoid. Matinees would be even worse, I imagine, but though unusual for a mid-week late night show, it didn't ruin the experience, and I still had a banging good time.
The show currently runs for about 2 ½ hours, including a 20 minute interval mid-way through. It's not as long a some shows, but is long enough in my mind. The musical numbers are generally short and sweet, but plentiful meaning you're never left without a song for long. There are currently two groups of ensemble kids performing on alternate nights, and 3 pairs of lead kids who also take it in turns. Although the conductor was announced prior to the start of the show, we weren't told which kids were treading the boards that night, and you honestly couldn't tell who they were beneath the hair and make-up.
The tour is not currently doing a standard programme, but is instead offering a glossy souvenir brochure for £5 which includes a 'working model' of the car to build yourself at home. Not having indulged yet, I can't tell you whether its flying abilities are akin to a paper aeroplane's or something more spectacular.
Further details and tour dates:
I've seen this show twice now, both times with the same original cast (Michael Ball, Emma Williams, Brian Blessed etc) but the second time with a different child-catcher (Paul O'Grady). The first time, I really didn't expect much at all. I was in London for another reason, and it was an excuse to see some amazing actors all together on stage. Well, I was blown away completely. When the overture struck up, and the audience started to clap insanely, I momentarily got worried - I don't like that kind of thing at all. I almost walked out of "Fame" when people started doing this at the end. But by the end of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", I was on my feet with everyone else -- it just deserved it for being such an insanely optimistic production. The second time I saw the show, I was concerned that it wouldn't match that first viewing - maybe it just caught me on a really bad or really good day, this time there would be no Richard O'Brien, no surprises - but nope, it did it again. And I imagine that now, even minus all those original cast members, it will still have the power over my inner child. It's down to an insanely simple premise - a car that flies - a bunch of completely mad characters, and of course, those ridiculously catchy songs of the Sherman brothers. Two perfect golden-haired kids convince their ever-loving father, a crackpot inventor by the name of Caractacus Potts, to buy a run-down wreck of a racing car. He raises the money by taking a hair-cutting machine to the fair and selling it to a man who wishes to use it for plucking chickens. He renovates the car, which promptly takes on a life of its own, informing them, in so many sound effects, that its name is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But evil forces are floating off the coast of Beachy Head in the form of Baron Bombhurst of Vulgaria. He Wants That Car! But Chitty has a bunch of tricks up her bonnet, and all will of course be well, but not before the kids a
re kidnapped by the Evil Child Catcher and all kinds of madness ensues over in Vulgaria. What struck me about the show is that, despite it being such a huge endeavour, there are opportunities in each separate setpiece for each individual on the crew to shine. There's a big song that showcases purely Gillian Lynne's choreography, while allowing Michael Ball to show off his newly acquired dancing skills, Me Ol' Bamboo. There's a new song that fully shows off the costume design and lighting, introducing a whole new look and musical style to the show in the Bombie Samba. There's another whole new song, Kiddie Widdie Winkies, that brilliantly captures the sinister Child Catcher, something that many thought could not be recreated after the movie's truly terrifying version. Toot Sweets is given an enormous and beautifully unveiled sweet factory set. Miniature models are used to hilarious effect in a couple of places. Animals and children flood the stage. No theatrical flourish is left untapped, and the show lives up to its promise in The Car -- the flight scenes are simply wonderful to behold. You might think "I'll just buy the movie" but I urge anyone with kids - they will go absolutely crackers over this musical, and you probably will too. I have to say I've probably never been so happy watching a show, possibly even *not* watching a show. I heard someone say that "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" is a story which is about those crazy dreams which should be allowed to come true, and for two hours plus, you will absolutely believe it can be so. You don't just believe Chitty can fly because the effects are good -- You *want* her to fly at the end, and become lost in a beautiful impossible moment made possible by the magic of theatre.
There can be few people who at some time or another have not come across Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Whether as a book or the film (which was adapted from the book by Roald Dahl, produced by Broccoli with songs by the Sherman brothers) Chitty has been providing entertainment since the 1960s. Now, with the skilful hand of Sams who provided the stage adaptation and Noble’s direction, Chitty has been brought, in full flying glory, to the London Palladium. I love musical theatre and, am a bit of a kid at heart and so it was with utter joy that booked tickets to go and see Chitty; and where better to see such a masterpiece than the London Palladium, surely one of London’s finest. Just in case anyone has managed to escape the world that is Chitty I will fill you in on a few story basics. Essentially this is a children’s story about a magical car and the Potts family who own it. The story is as traditional as one would expect with the usual fight between good and evil and the hammering home of family values. Caratacus Potts is father to twins, Jeremy and Jemima. They live with their father and grandfather, their mother having dies during childbirth. Caratacus is a penniless, eccentric inventor who would do anything for his children. He agrees to purchase a “magical car” for his children, little realising the full potential of Chitty and her amazing history. Jeremy and Jemima’s interest in the car is not unique, however. Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria has his eye on the car too and will try anything to get his hands on the vehicle. Little does he realise what he has let himself in for! As we approached the theatre on our given night you could almost feel the anticipation in the air as young and old made their way into the auditorium for a face to face with a car. At first, making our way to our seats, my husband and I felt like frauds, not having the compulsory two children in tow. However
, as we surveyed the auditorium it would seem that we were not alone! As the orchestra started up there was a momentary hush across the auditorium as people settled themselves in for two and a half hours of pure escapism. The silence didn’t last long though. As the familiar Chitty theme came to the fore of the overture the clapping commenced. This was a show that was going to be fun! Curtain up. The show was underway. The first set was dull and grey and the doubts as to the choice of performance started to creep in. The sound was flat and the acting trite – not what one would expect of an ex-RSC director and such an excellent cast and crew. The worry was unnecessary however. As the story started to unfurl one realised the reasoning behind the first scene and here the show began. (I’m certain that most in the audience would not have been able to tell you what the first scene was, it was that impressionless!) After the lack-lustre start things just got better and better. The sets and the scenes were an engineers dream – working models of inventions which turned and hissed to the delight of everyone. Ward really went to town on this one and threw the audience into a world far removed from the bustle of the London Streets outside. The costumes complimented the sets and were both inspired and vivid in their creation. The music is what made the original film for me and here we have a stage show that has adapted from the film very well. The songs are tried and tested and very memorable. Ranging from the rousing theme song to the lullaby Hushabye Mountain, the very danceable Me ‘Ol Bamboo to the infuriatingly catchy Toot Sweets, they are bound to leave you humming something for days. Gillian Lynne's imaginative choreography is simply spell-binding. This is not a show of which you could ever tire as there is just so much going on. The child in the audience who appears to be looking the wrong way i
s probably finding interest in the back corner of the stage! You do not have a show, however, without a cast. Chitty is not one to scrimp here! Michael Ball would, absent the car, be the star of the show as Caratacus Potts. He is as affable as ever with a voice that could melt the coldest of hearts. His sympathetic portrayal of the loving father is perfect and I could think of no other better for the job. Emma Willams as Truly scrumptious is, in my opinion, a little weak, yet with a voice of an angel and somewhat of a smaller role than one would anticipate, she is adequate. Brian Blessed and Nichola McAuliffe are simply wonderful as the evil Baron Bomburst and his wife and there are some classic moments of humour between the two. The Child Catcher is played by (a now very old) Richard O’Brien (of Rocky Horror fame). This portrayal was interesting. The Child Catcher was sinister without being frightening and the boos that ensued were more pantomime than fearful. One could not review the show without mentioning the children. As with all child actors, the cast rotates and whilst the children who played Jeremy and Jemima were very good at the show we saw, I could not speak for them all. Finally, for me, the comic star of the show had to be Anton Rodgers as the grandfather. His frequent imagined trips to India and encounters with wild beasts in his pyjamas will stay with me forever! The star of the show has to be Chitty, however! I cannot imagine many productions where the human cast is upstaged by a machine but Chitty is unique. The audience gasp audible as the car flys and it is so skilfully done that one cannot help but look on in awe as the car sweeps through the air! Chitty is the engineers nightmare and the child’s dream! As a whole this is a show that will not disappoint. Everything combines to make a night that will be truly memorable. It is not just a show for the children, there being plenty of humour th
at, in an almost Disney-esque manner, will fly over the heads of the children but leave the adults chuckling quietly. Despite this, it is also a show that had the youngest of children spell bound for the duration. Audience participation in the form of clapping along, cheering and booing was high and actors running through the auditorium provided interest. If a show could receive 11 out of 10 this one surely would. @@@@@@@@@@ For those that are interested, the show plays daily at the Palladium with tickets priced from £10 (matinee) to £40. Tickets can be booked through Ticketmaster with a £1.50 booking fee per ticket. It is worth seeing a plan of the theatre before you book your tickets as certain seats are poor value for money (particularly towards the back of the stalls (row T and back) where the Dress Circle obscures the top of the stage - and you do want to be able to see this, believe me!). If you do want to see Michael Ball check www.chittythemusical.co.uk to see that you are not going to go on one of his few "off-days" (such as next Saturday when I am seeing him at Marble Hill!). The theatre provides a limited number of booster cushions for young children so if you think you will need one it is worth getting there early. Disabled access is available, although seat choice will be limited. The usual range of drinks, sweets and promotional materials can be bought before the show and during the interval and, rather uniquely, you can get drinks in plastic cups to take into the auditorium. Enjoy!
I agree with nearly everything that Chritchyboy says in his review, but I just had to comment because Chitty deserves more than 2 stars. Yes the dialogue is poor at times, yes the 2 spies have much more comedy potential etc etc etc. But the effects, sets and the car itself are absolutely outstanding. I think it may have improved since the previews (I saw the 22 June performance) - Me Ol' Bamboo for example went down an absolute treat and the choreography looked great to my untutored eye. However the Bernard Matthews reference is still there. I am not a Michael Ball fan by any means, but I think he does a great job here and Anton Rodgers is terrific. It's just a shame that more use couldn't be made of the rest of the star names in the cast - I was gutted when I saw Richard O'Brien whizzing off to the top of the theatre. But I guess the story just doesn't allow it. Where possible I think the show has stayed pretty faithful to the film (although I haven't watched it for several years). My only complaint here is that "Chu Chi face" is a bit understated compared to the film (which, as I recall, gets increasingly "violent" as the song progesses). The other problem is the price. I'm sure it will sell out for months to come, but £40 for a stalls seat is a lot of money. I can see where the money goes, but even so.... Having said that, we were in the 7th row of the centre stalls and they were great seats. We got free tickets and would never normally pay £40 for theatre tickets, but in retrospect I would go for top price tickets again even if I was paying. So if you can afford it, go for it.
…but I ain’t never seen a car fly! (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one I’m afraid!) The London Palladium has played host to many stars of stage and screen over the years since it opened in 1910. Stars such as Harry Houdini, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Julie Andrews. Recently it has played host to Jason Donovan and Philip Schofield as Joseph in Lloyd-Webbers popular Biblical Musical; Jonathan Pryce as Fagin and Elaine Paige as Anna Leonowens in The King and I. Now it plays host to a whole host of stars in just one show. The £6.5 million pound “fantasmagorical” Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has arrived… ***THE HISTORY*** Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written by the James Bond author Ian Fleming and was published in 1964, the year Fleming died. Four years later it was turned into the film musical we have all come to love starring Dick Van Dyke. The screenplay of which was adapted by Roald Dahl. With songs by The Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a sure-fire hit and the title song itself was nominated for an Academy Award in 1968. Now finally in 2002 Chitty lands on stage at the London Palladium – but is it any cop? ***THE STORY*** It is the Vulgarian Grand Prix. Several cars are in the competition to win, but our heroine comes in first! Chitty is unbeatable! Moving onto the British Grand Prix, Chitty crashes and we meet her in a scrap-yard owned by a man called Coggins and loved by two children by the names of Jeremy and Jemima Potts. Coggins tells the children that he is going to have to sell Chitty, but they make him promise to keep her for a couple of days to see if their father can raise the 40 shillings needed to spring Chitty from her prison. But wait! Some other people are interested in getting their hands on Chitty. Spies from the country of Vulgaria are out to get hold of her too…
; The children meet a woman at the garage who goes by the name of Truly Scrumptious. She gives them a lift back to their windmill and meets their father, Caractacus – an eccentric inventor, whose inventions have a habit of going wrong. Through a disagreement, Truly leaves after being insulted by Caractacus and the family sit down, with Grandpa, for a meal before bed-time. Meanwhile, the spies are closing in… Next morning and realising he has actually invented something worthwhile, Caractacus and the children head off to the sweet factory to try and impress the owner with his new found sweet – Toot sweets. Sweets that toot, so to speak. The factory is owned by Lord Scrumptious, Truly’s father, and she encourages Caractacus to sell his idea to her father. Unfortunately, the toot sweets emit a whistle that attracts every dog in the area to the factory and Caractacus is out on his ear. Having promised his children to try and find the money needed to buy Chitty, Caractacus heads off to the funfair with a hair-cutting invention to try and raise the necessary funds. It goes wrong and in hiding from one highly irritated customer Caractacus finds himself in a dance troupe. He is spotted as the dodgy hair-cutting device and manages to sell it to an interested party thereby raising the funds to buy Chitty. Having worked on Chitty for a week, she is unveiled and named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang through the various noises that she makes. Caractacus, the children and Truly embark on a picnic to the sea-side where they are attacked by the Vulgarians and have to escape. Chitty unveils some pretty darn good tactics for getting away from these situations and all is well until they get back home and find that Grandpa has been kidnapped… The action moves to Vulgaria and in particular to the Castle of the Baronm Bomburst. Preparations are underway for his Birthday celebration with his wife, the Baroness, firmly in c
harge. Grandpa Potts is put to work designing another car – he is misidentified as the Inventor Potts. There are no children allowed in Vulgaria as The Baroness doesn’t like them. A Childcatcher is employed to catch all the children and lock them in the dungeons of the castle so they don’t make a nuisance of themselves. Meanwhile, Chitty, Caractacus and company have arrived in Vulgaria and are looked after by the Toymaker. Caractacus and Truly embark on a mission to save Grandpa only to have Chitty captured by the Baron and the children found by the childcatcher. Caractacus and Truly now have many more people to save and, through teamwork with the imprisoned children and the toymaker, hatch a plan that might just work… ***THE SET*** The set for this show is incredibly remarkable. The windmill is created through a spiral staircase with two beds at the top and a set of spinning sails, showing all the cog-work to create the stylised look. The sweet factory is very impressive and rolls forward from the back of the stage, with steam shooting from various places and conveyor belts carrying different types of sweets. The streets of Vulgaria have stylised house – wide at the bottom and narrow at the top to create an illusion of height. The toymakers’ house spins round to show the front and the inside. The show just looks amazing drawing in different styles from cartoon-like. Similarly the costumes are great and keep very much in step with the feel of the film. The famous revolving stage has been removed to make way for the pit that the finished Chitty appears from. ***THE SPECIAL EFFECTS*** There is a lot of wire work in this show with various cast members floating upwards in dream sequences and being carried by balloons or meeting their comeuppance in a big net to be sent soaring to the roof of the theatre. However the most impressive effec
ts are reserved for Chitty herself. The car just looks amazing and yes, there’s the hovercraft Chitty, the flying Chitty and the helicopter Chitty. It’s obvious, but very hard to see (from row V anyhow) how the hydraulics of it all works, but as it is happening in front of your eyes you can do nothing but be bowled over by the imagination and ingenuity of it all. Let the magic take you away and believe that Chitty can fly. It is amazing! ***THE CAST*** A dream cast has been tempted to fill the roles for this production and here they are: Michael Ball (Caractacus Potts) has made his name in musicals from creating the role of Marius in the West-End production of Les Miserables, to playing Raoul in Lloyd-Webbers Phantom and the lead in Aspects of Love, from which he has his song Love Changes Everything. A stint in the charts and an attempt at Eurovision he is backing the West-End after five years. Ball makes a fine Caractacus although he does have a very hard act to follow in Dick Van Dyke. There aren’t really any songs for him to let rip in but he does sing bloomin’ well. His dancing skills will improve through the run and he was fine. A little slimy, but fine! Emma Williams (Truly Scrumptious) makes her West End debut and is an interesting choice. She does a good job, but her accent is grating after a while. She seems a little young to be in love with Caractacus. Her singing is good and she looks the part. Anton Rodgers (Grandpa Potts) is probably best known for his television work including Fresh and French Field and May to December. He is a great actor and brings an eccentric and likeable quality to Grandpa. Brian Blessed (Baron Bomburst) created the role of Old Deuteronomy in Cats and has had a thriving television career (Blackadder to name one), film career (Star Wars Episode 1 to his credit) and stage career. Blessed does in the show what he does best – ie shouting! Nic
hola McAuliffe (Baroness Bomburst) has starred in countless television shows including Surgical Spirit (she was even the voice of the BMW in the Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies!) and makes an excellent double act with Blessed. Richard O’Brien (The Childcatcher) or Rocky Horror himself and the host of The Crystal Maze is great fun as the wicked childcatcher. ***THE SONGS*** Some fantastic songs and some recognisable songs, but here is my top hits list! Hushabye Mountain – A little lullaby sung by Caractacus to get his children to sleep. Marvellously spoofed by Grandpa who can’t remember the words. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – The Oscar nominated theme song is great! Try and stop yourself singing a long! The Roses of Success – Sung by Grandpa and a bunch of mad scientists as they try to customise the Baron’s car. “From the ashes of disaster come the Roses of Success!” Chu-Chi Face – Sung by the Baron and the Baroness! Great comedy song played brilliantly by the two actors! ***THE CONCLUSION*** I had wanted to go and see this show since it was announced it was being made and who was going to be in it. And I was a little disappointed with what I saw. There were so many lulls in the action that was happening on stage – it was like, really interesting, then really boring and back again. It seemed that the boring bits were when the actors were actually talking – sadly. And as it is being billed as a family show – I fear for some of the little ones sitting through it. It’s not that it wasn’t polished (it was still in previews stage when I saw it at the weekend) as it really was; it was just that the action fell completely flat at certain points. The romance between Truly and Caractacus failed to impress on any emotional level at all. Truly seems to young to be falling in love with Caractacus and h
e doesn’t really seem to care much for her. The best actors, Blessed, McAuliffe and O’Brien were woefully underused and O’Brien’s song ‘Kiddy-Widdy-Winkies’ was the worst song of the evening. There are other issues too. The choreography is lack-lustre (except for the Samba) and to think it was created by Gillian Lynne, who has Cats under her belt, is almost too much to bear. It really could have been so much betted – particularly in Me Ol’ Bamboo. The introduction to the funfair is embarrassing but some of the blame must also lie on Director Adrian Noble for this. Some of the dialogue is incredibly cheesey and even drew big groans from the audience in places. The idea of making it relevant and including such celebrities as Bernard Matthew’s in joke that take a while to set-up is like scraping the bottom of the barrel. The comedy spies are shocking too. The characters say ‘Oh My God!’ an awful lot too and I may be old fashioned but this is advertised as a family show and there are other ways that shock can be expressed. Also, there is a comedy shooting of one of the main characters towards the end of the show which left a bitter taste in my mouth. NO NEED! You got a problem with someone you don’t like – well, shoot ‘em! Dear me..! The biggest applause of the night, and rightly so, was for Chitty herself. She alone is worth the ticket price (which is you’re taking a family will be incredibly expensive) and if you allow yourself to be drawn into the magic of it all you will believe a car can fly! She looks great, moves brilliantly and flies over the first few rows of the Stalls, circling back and forth. Yes, the show looks fantastic. Yes, the special effects are amazing. Yes, Chitty herself is present as are all the songs from the musical film, but if this show had been handed in as homework at school the final statement would
have to be “Could do better”. There’s lots to get involved in – booing and hissing the childcatcher for example – and there’s so much to see, but it could have been better. It’ll run and run and I really hope it does. I would even like to return to see it again after it’s settled down into a comfortable run, but it doesn’t rate with much else I’ve seen. It’s a £6.5 million pantomime. The kids’ll love it. ***OTHER INFO*** Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is currently showing at the London Palladium on Argyll Street in the West End. Ticket Prices: £15.00 - £40.00 Booking on the 24 hour booking line: 0870 89 555 89. The Palladium direct: (020) 7494 5020. Group tickets: 020 7494 5454. On the net: www.ticketmaster.co.uk Theatre tours behind the scenes are available: For individuals call 020 7494 5091. For groups call 020 7494 5454. Programmes are available for £3.00 and contain a copy of the magazine ‘theatregoer’. Thanks for reading! C. :¬.