Review - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

Despite having been released 27 years before I was born, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was one of the definitive family films of my childhood, and therefore I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see a new production of this family favourite at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, ahead of it's UK tour.
In a slight variation to the pre-war setting of the film, this production was set in post-war England, which compliments both the themes of the story, and the characters involved. The story begins when two young children beg their father, the widowed inventor Caractacus Potts, to buy them a dilapidated race car from a scrap yard so that they can play with it. Once the car is fixed it proves to be much more than just a toy, and the family, along with their new motorcycle enthusiast acquaintance Truly Scrumptious, are whisked away to the mysterious Vulgaria on an unbelievable adventure.
Photo credit - Alastair Muir
Jon Robyns put his own winsome stamp on the role of Caractacus Potts, and struck a perfect balance between madcap inventor and doting father to his two children Jeremy and Jemima (played wonderfully by Oscar Ward and Lucy Grundy at the performance I attended). Meanwhile Amy Griffiths was a brilliantly mettlesome Truly Scrumptious. I loved the changes made to Truly which reflected the character's place in the new post-suffragette movement setting. I was also thrilled with the inclusion of the song Lovely Lonely Man, which was did not feature in the 2002 Palladium production and yet is one of the most poignant songs in the show.

The whole cast was top notch, and during big numbers like Me Ol' Bamboo (which was ingeniously reinvented as an electric tap number by choreographer Stephen Mear) and the rousing song Teamwork, this was particularly apparent!

But what about Chitty herself? Well, she really was more than spectacular! Seeing her fly for the first time was incredibly exciting. The prop itself was gorgeous and when combined with projections and accompanied by the unmistakable Chitty Chitty Bang Bang motif, the flying scenes honestly took my breath away. It was wonderful to see so many people, age regardless, gaping open mouthed as the car ascended into the air!

What made this show so brilliant was that it had something for everyone. The story was entertaining, the script was filled with comical moments (Sam Harrison and Scott Paige were hilarious as a bumbling duo of Vulgarian spies), the production design was slick, and the Sherman Brothers' beautiful and instantly recognisable music was performed by a first-rate band of musicians. It had everything you could want from a family show, and I enjoyed every second of it!

Fortunately, although the show ends its run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on January 30th, it then sets off on a UK tour! I really couldn't recommend Chitty Chitty Bang Bang enough and I'll definitely be seeing it again and bringing my family along when it visits Birmingham's Hippodrome this summer. It really was fantasmagorical!