REVIEW: CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

I’m a little ashamed to say that I’d never seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang until this week. So whilst going up and down the country to do the obligatory Christmas family visits, I decided to stop off in Leeds and go to the famous West Yorkshire Playhouse to check out the new production that will be touring the UK next year.

Based on the 1968 film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tells the story of inventor Caractacus Potts and his two children Jeremy and Jemima who go on a mission to rescue their beloved flying car, which has been stolen by the Baron of Vulgaria. Little do they know that children are banned from the land and the evil child-catcher kidnaps Jeremy and Jemima and throws them in with the other captured children. Can Caractacus rescue his car and his children or will he be forced to choose between the two? And what about the connection that has been building between Caractacus and Truly Scrumptious. Will their love blossom so the four of them can live happily ever after? Of course it will!

What the show lacks in grandiose set design, is compensated for in video projections which work well, although a little too computer-gamey for my liking. The flying car was a bit of a let down (given that the original version holds the record for most expensive stage prop ever at £750,000) and wasn’t as much of a spectacle as I was hoping for but you have to consider this has been produced to tour the UK and has to be scaled down somewhat.

Musically you can definitely tell this is a Sherman Brothers piece. ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ sounds eerily like ‘Step In Time’ from Mary Poppins and whilst the songs are catchy (‘Truly Scrumptious’, ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’) it just doesn’t hit quite the same mark as other well loved classic musicals.

Tamsin Carroll is hilarious as the Baroness Bomburst and gives the performance of the night in ‘Chu-Chi Face’ alongside the Baron (Don Gallagher). Jon Robyns gives a nice performance as Caractacus Potts but was verging on animated more than doting-father. I wanted to believe not only was his character fun to be around for his kids but that he is the kind of guy who would show pictures of them in his wallet to anyone who would stop to look. The two comical spies Boris and Goran (Sam Harrison and Scott Paige) provide great comedy entertainment with Allo Allo TV show humour and interesting accents.

The moral of the story seems to be that if you are nice to your car, your car will be nice to you. But more than that it is about what you can achieve with a little bit of love, help from your friends and a good old sing song. The audience loved it and the kids were entertained. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is good family fun for the festive season or for a treat night out in 2016 when it is on tour.

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Alastair Muir