Wednesday, 18 May 2016

"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang"
Nottingham Theatre Royal.

One of the first films I can remember seeing as a child was "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and can remember the film being completely magical. Decades later, all those feelings of magic flooded back with this latest stage production.

The story of inventor Caractacus Potts, his two children and his father, Mr Potts senior. Caractacus saves an old racing car from being sold to the scrap man and works his magic and creates a car that can float and fly. Meanwhile news has spread to the Baron and Baroness of Vulgaria and they send their two hapless spies to retrieve the car for the Baron.

The spies Goran and Boris mistake Potts senior for the inventor and skylift him over to the Baron, followed by Caractacus, the children and Truly Scrumptious, to Vulgaria, a place where children are banned and caught by the evil child catcher. With the help of the Toy maker a happy ending for all is promised with just a little team work.

Lee Mead, known for many successful musicals and "Casualty" on TV, plays Potts. You can see why this man is in such demand for musicals because he is such an easy actor to watch. You feel comfortable watching him, His voice is easy on the ear and he has bags of charisma in the role. He is comfortable working with the children and interacts with them naturally.

Truly Scrumptious, the daughter of confectionery king, Lord Scrumptious, is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher, and the character name says it all, she is most definitely scrumptious and what a lovely clear voice she has as well. You can see why she sent Potts potty with love.

Playing the dual role of Miss Phillips, Lord Scrumptious' appointment secretary, as well as Baroness Bomburst, is the equally scrumptious Michelle Collins. She is funny, sexy, can sing, do a mean samba and be authoritative all at the same time, and be a wonderful match for Shaun Williamson who plays Lord Scrumptious and Baron Bomburst.

Fellow Eastenders actor Shaun, like Michelle, cut his teeth in the theatre,as well as having a career singing, and this experience for both has served them well in this production. Both great fun to watch, and some marvellous costumes for Shaun and Michelle.

One role which gave me the creeps in the film, and also here on stage is that of the Child Catcher, played by Matt Gillett. With a stark white face, black eye make up and lips to match with a creepy looking black outfit, he sent a shiver down my spine as he crept around the Toy Makers shop, looking in the windows for the children. His presence often preceded by an eerie silhouette, or twisted shadowy hands creeping over the stage and set.

The young Potts, Jeremy and Jemima, played on Wednesday night by Henry Kent and Lucy Sherman. it always leaves me in awe when you see such young actors giving such perfect and professional performances, especially in a musical. These two very talented kids were just brilliant and they have a great future ahead of them.

I loved Grandpa Potts and Andy Hockley was faithful to the original film Grandpa. A wonderful character role for Andy.

The Toy maker, played in the original film by Benny Hill, is played on stage by seasoned West End actor, Ewen Cummins, and the two very comical spies, Boris and Goran are played excellently by Sam Harrison and Scott Paige.

You'll instantly remember most of the songs from the production,"Toot Sweets", "Truly Scrumptious","Hushabye Mountain", "Me Ol Bamboo", "Chu Chi Face", "Doll On A Music Box" and of course the title song.

The up to the minute technical elements of this stage musical are just amazing to watch. The cinematography makes you feel like you're travelling with the Potts in Chitty and places you in with the action. it's like watching a four dimensional film just feet away from you. The animation is just magical to watch as it all unfolds before your eyes, especially in the scene where Caractacus sings "Hushabye Mountain". the video design by Simon Wainwright.

A fresh and punchy direction by James Brining, matching the wonderful choreography by Stephen Mear. Wonderfully modern set design by Simon Higlett, the lighting design by Tim Mitchell, a clear and rich sound by Ben Harrison, and the musical director being Andrew Hilton, All the above creating a powerhouse production backbone for the show.

The magic of the film has been refreshed and brought to life on stage. You will find yourself re-visiting your childhood while introducing this classic to your children, and Grandchildren and you'll all love the show. Tickets, like the car, are flying out for this show.

"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 29 May 2016.

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