Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The Bristol Hippodrome
Tuesday 25th January – Saturday 4th February 2017
Way before the luxury of home VCRs, I remember singing along to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when it came on the telly, which was fairly frequently, if I remember correctly. A few weeks ago when I heard we were going to be reviewing the Sherman Brothers’ musical adaption at The Bristol Hippodrome, I dragged my sons away from YouTube and we all thoroughly enjoyed watching the film as a family, with our eight year old taking it in turns sitting next to Mummy and Daddy in case we were scared of the Childcatcher! It’s a long and (apart from some glaringly obvious green screen scenes) beautifully produced film and we wondered how the stage show would compare.
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG REVIEW
This stage production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is part of the 2016-2017 UK tour, brought to us by Music & Lyrics and West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Wacky inventor, Caractacus Potts (Jason Manford), along with his two children and their new friend Truly Scrumptious (Charlotte Wakefield) try to stop Chitty Chitty Bang Bang falling into the evil clutches of Baron and Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria but the Potts children get captured by the Childcatcher. Will Jemima (Emma Jane Shorrock), and Jeremy (Fin Richards) be banished along with all the other children of the Kingdom or will they escape and live happily ever after with Caracatus and their beloved Truly? I wonder if you can guess ?
SET & EFFECTS
The set throughout is a giant windmill which is impressive in itself but add to that amazing lighting and video effects and you start to get a feel for what a visual treat this is. The team wanted the show to be about “the power of imagination over fear or oppression” and this comes across beautifully. The light drawing sequence during Lullaby Mountain is particularly magical. The visuals are unlike anything I’ve seen before yet don’t detract from the live action.
The windmill with its long rotating sail opens its walls to reveal different scenes inside. A few tweaks and projected posters advertising ‘Snap On’ and ‘Brasso’ turn it into Coggin’s Garage. For the Toot Sweets scene, a huge mechanical cog contraption provides the backdrop for Scrumptious Sweets’ factory. Workwear costumes and trays of confectionary treats complete the effect.
Video projection takes us riding on country roads, floating across the sea, dwarfed by an imposing pirate ship and of course up, up into the sky. There’s no sign of Truly’s impractical floaty long white dress, temperamental motorcar or that perilous lake which attracts them both in the film. Instead a rail across the front of the stage acts as a guide for her temperamental motorbike and she’s dressed accordingly as a thoroughly modern gal in culottes.
Video designer Simon Wainright says his brief was to ” Make the car fly!” and Designer Simon Higlett envisaged this could be done “a bit like a flight simulator”. The lighting and video creative teams worked closely together and the result is that much to everyone’s delight we see a flying car carrying four passengers above the stage this evening!!
Grandpa (Andy Hockey) takes to the skies too and we have a chuckle at how quickly he and his ‘laboratory’ become little more than a dot in the sky. You just have to see that one ….
MUSIC & DANCE
There’s no shortage of familiar tunes to sing along with. The memorable score by the Sherman Brothers includes such standards as Truly Scrumptious, Toot Sweets, Hushabye Mountain and the Oscar-nominated title song Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I love Charlotte Wakefield’s clear voice during Truly Scrumptious and the clever integration of two melodies in Doll on a Music Box.
Led by choreographer Stephen Bear, the show features a broad range of dance styles. One of Stephen’s favourites is the vaudevillian style duet Act English, performed by the two incompetent spies, Boris (Sam Harrison) and Goran (Scott Paige). There are several big numbers like the long samba scene starring an energetic Claire Sweeney, a ballet number performed in the sweet factory and my personal favourite, Me Ol’ Bamboo, a fun, lively group tap dance.
Both the husband and I remember being terrified of the child catcher as kids but my eight year old isn’t phased by him in either the film or stage version. I think he must be a pretty resilient kid because I find the giant evil-looking shadow looming over the stage when the children are taken, pretty scary, whereas he found the hooked nose in the film more menacing. This is firmly a family film but I’m sure my son would have been frightened a couple of years ago so I’d suggest a minimum of age seven to eight for this one, depending on your own child of course.
As soon as the curtain rises the crowd joins in clapping along and laughing out loud. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is certainly a crowd pleaser.
Jason Manford is likeable as Caraticus. The relationship between him and his motherless children is sweet and yes, he really can sing, as we discovered when we saw him alongside Phil Jupitus in The Producers couple of years ago. Phil and Claire Sweeney make a hilarious couple viz zair heffy accents and their child-hating bond but it’s probably the spies with their silly antics who make the audience laugh the most.
The children’s performance is highly commendable with no hint of the stage school brat. Jane Shorrock and Fin Richards have a huge amount to do and if they put a foot wrong I certainly don’t spot it.
Click here for more information or to book tickets to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or other Bristol Hippodrome shows. (affiliate link)
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG PERFORMANCES
Wednesday 25th January – Saturday 4th February 2017
NO SHOW ON MON 30TH JAN
Evenings at 7.30pm
Matinees on Thurs 26th/2nd & Wed 1st @ 2.30pm, Sat 28th/Sat 4th @ 2.30pm & Sun 29th @ 1pm
Tickets: from £20.00
Concessions available at certain performances
FURTHER INFORMATION, CAST AND CREDITS
Charlotte Wakefield (Truly Scruptious) made her West End debut at 18 starring as Wendla Bergman in Spring Awakening, receiving an Olivier Award nomination, and has gone on to play Maria in The Sound of Music at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, receiving critical acclaim and a second Olivier Award nomination. She has also played Sophie in the West End and International Tour productions of Mamma Mia!. Charlotte’s previous television credits include, Waterloo Road, The Royal and Holby City.
Jason Manford (The Producers, Sweeney Todd) is Caractacus Potts
Jos Vantyler plays the Childcatcher. Jos’s previous theatre credits include Oswald in King Lear (Northern Broadsides, directed by Jonathan Miller), Dead on Her Feet (Arcola, won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor in a New Play and was nominated in the Best Male Performance category for the 2012 OffWestEnd Awards), Tom Sawyer in Huck (Southwark Playhouse, nominated for Best Male Performance, 2010 OffWestEnd Awards), Prophecy, Hampstead New End Theatre (nominated in the Critics’ Choice Best Actor category), A View From The Bridge, (Tower Theatre, New York, awarded Best Newcomer, 2005 NYC START Awards) and Oswald in Ghosts (Lincoln Center, New York, received a Best Supporting Actor nomination in NYC Review Awards).
Phill Jupitus (The Producers, Hairspray) is Lord Scrumptious and Baron Bomburst, Claire Sweeney (Hairspray, Chicago, Guys and Dolls) as Baroness Bomburst and Andy Hockley (The Phantom of the Opera) as Grandpa Potts.
Ewen Cummins plays The Toymaker/Mr Coggins, with Sam Harrison as Boris, Scott Paige as Goran, plus Kathryn Barnes, Rosanna Bates, Alex Louize Bird, Abigail Climer, Jade Davies, Ewan Gillies, Joanna Goodwin, Nathan Vaughan Harris, Christopher D Hunt, Paul Iveson, Nia Jermin, Kelsie-Rae Marshall, Mollie Melia-Redgrave, Perry O’Dea, Matt Overfield, Ross Russell, Craig Turner and Robert Wilkes.
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG has music and lyrics by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman, who were also responsible for Mary Poppins, The Slipper and the Rose, The Aristocats and The Jungle Book. The Sherman Brothers have won two Academy Awards with a further nine nominations, two Grammy Awards and they have received 21 gold and platinum albums.
The film made from Ian Fleming’s classic story has been adapted for the stage by Jeremy Sams, based on the MGM Motion Picture Licensed Script adapted by Ray Roderick.
This new production of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining, with new choreography by Stephen Mear. There is a live orchestra with Musical Supervision by Stephen Ridley. Set and costume design is by Simon Higlett, lighting design is by Tim Mitchell, sound design is by Ben Harrison and video design is by Simon Wainwright.
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DISCLOSURE: WE RECEIVED TICKETS FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW.
ALL OPINIONS ARE MY/OUR OWN. POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS