Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is yet another classic film I haven’t seen, but this didn’t stop me going to the Wimbledon run of the theatrical production. The story of a magical car with a strong personality proves to be hugely entertaining on stage.
When inventor Caractacus Potts’ wife dies, he is left alone to bring up his two children Jeremy and Jemima with help from his father. When his children beg him to buy an old rusty car destined for the scrapheap, he does so and the resulting swimming, flying automobile proves a worthy companion as the family becomes caught up in the schemes of the villainous Baron and Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria.
Lee Mead is superb as Caractacus, with a great rapport with the kids and an appealing personality. Carrie Hope Fletcher is also excellent as his love interest Truly, while Shaun Williamson and Michelle Collins are surprisingly funny as the wicked antagonists. Stephen Mear’s choreography is lively and entertaining, and Simon Higlett’s set is impressive for a touring production, conveying the various locations of the piece with aplomb.
The story is rather daft but this hardly poses a problem. Indeed, the villainous Child-Catcher is one of the most memorable characters in kids’ entertainment and I have to admit I found him rather creepy myself. The presence of a couple of spies is a reminder that the original Chitty book was penned by James Bond author Ian Fleming, and there’s some casual xenophobia thrown in for good measure, though it’s all so cartoonish it’s impossible to take offence. The special effects are genuinely impressive, and the conclusion is exciting.
With a strong story, memorable songs by the Sherman Brothers, and appealing characters, the show has enough for both children and adults to enjoy, and it’s well worth catching on its UK tour.