Writer: Ian Fleming
Book: Jeremy Sams
Music &Lyrics: Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman
Director: James Brining
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
Comparisons with the much-loved, 1968 film of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are inevitable, such is its place in the British public’s hearts, thankfully, this West Yorkshire Playhouse production of the iconic children’s classic will largely satisfy audiences both old and new.
For anyone who doesn’t know…it’s 1919 and widowed father and eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts and his family finds themselves in peril when Baron and Baroness Bombast of Vulgaria plot to uncover the secrets of their magical flying machine, the former Grand Prix-winning racing car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. With the utterly terrifying Childcatcher and a few dodgy foreign spies thrown into the mix, there are enough thrills, chills, and spills to keep audiences of all ages entertained.
Capturing the atmosphere of the magical film is a daunting task but designer Simon Higlett, with the help of Simon Wainwright’s extensive video projections and Tim Mitchell’s inventive lighting, recreate the multiple locations well and thanks to improved technology Chitty flies higher and more convincingly than ever before.
While the car may be the star, the humans don’t do too bad a job either. Comedian Jason Manford has already proved his musical theatre chops with appearances in The Producers and Sweeney Todd, and brings a warmth, as well as a melodious singing voice to Caractacus and Charlotte Wakefield is a feisty, feminist Truly Scrumptious for the 21st Century.
The central duo is more than ably supported by a raft of fine performances: Sam Harrison and Scott Paige as Vulgarian spies Boris and Goran provide the lion’s share of the laughs, Andy Hockley’s Grandpa Potts is nicely judged and Jos Vantyler chills as the Childcatcher. The ensemble is of a universally high qualityand isespecially well-drilled in the dance sequences. However, Phill Jupitus and Claire Sweeney as Baron and Baroness Bombast fare less well. While Sweeney is competent enough as the Baroness, Jupitus looks as if he wishes he were anywhere else but on the stage, the accent is an abomination and his utter lack of commitment to the role is, quite frankly, appalling.
The show still suffers from unnecessary padding, which adds little to the narrative or the entertainment, Truly’s Lovely, Lonely Man and The Bombie Samba only serve to add to the lengthy running time, but this perennial favourite still has the power to transport you back to your childhood and delight even the youngest audience members. Rest assured, our “fine four-fendered friend” is still in good nick and remains as entertaining as it ever was, 50 years on from its creation.
Runs until 29 October 2016 | Image: Alastair Muir