Tuesday, June 18

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – Edinburgh Playhouse

An amazing spectacle and upbeat tunes (plus the most expensive prop in British theatre history), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, sweeps you along for a few hours of happy distraction with ease and admiration.

The lighting, designed by Ben Cracknell and implemented by Ryan Van Delden and deputy head of lighting, Sophie Meredith, is a work of perfection. Gareth Tucker’s set design works seamlessly under the management of Phil Sykes, Lee Harvey and Natasha Wood. The ever-present picture frame and blueprints create a sense of fantasy, innovation and endless possibility. And whatever team designed and created that flying car …  not Caractacus Potts himself, I assume … hats off to you. Thanks must go to Kielan Yates and Ellie Holloway for enabling this amazing star in its own right, night after night on tour!

Jessica Viner conducted the orchestra who played supremely. I saw her high-five a colleague at the end and demonstrate her sheer enjoyment of the job. It is easy to lose focus where the work of musicians is concerned, hidden away in their pit, yet their contribution, under the management of Stephen Hill in this case, is instrumental, fundamental and emotionally crucial to any musical.

The casting by Debbie O’Brien is spot on too. Adam Garcia (Wicked, Kiss Me Kate) has a mellifluous voice and can dance enthusiastically. He played Caractacus Potts with sincerity and ease. His tone complemented Ellie Nunn’s Truly Scrumptious, and the pair created a picture-perfect family unit. Which brings me onto the young cast.

This rotates, obviously, and there is a scene with a clutch of youngsters, captured by Elaine C Smith’s evil child catcher. Without naming names, I must applaud each and every one of the young cast. There was not one weak link. And there was a mountain of talent, both in the young main characters and the ensemble. Karen Bruce (Choreographer), Lauren Stroud (Associate Choreographer) and Thom Southerland (Director) have vision and collaborate well with the Resident Director, Simon Greiff, Dance Captain, Luke Woollaston and Assistant Dance Captain, Belle Kizzy Green, this combination clearly inspires excellence, confidence and teamwork.

I saw the film with my brother in 1969. We both loved it, but mostly, he loved it. Sadly, he died young and poignant memories of sitting in the cinema and my brother’s subsequent enthusiasm which filled the days that followed, flooded back as if it were yesterday. It was a sentimental journey for me and, no doubt, many of the older members of the audience outnumbered the children easily ten-to-one and who were wildly enthusiastic.

The book, written by Ian Fleming of 007 fame, is his only work for children, written for his son. It is based on a true character: Count Louis Zborowski, who was the best-known amateur racing driver of his time. Zborowski was eccentric and fun, and he created a storm with his three aero-engineered racing cars.

Martin Callaghan and Jenny Gayner, as the Baron and Baroness, played up his once-famous eccentricity and had the audience smiling from ear-to-ear with their antics and songs.

Poignantly, Richard Sherman, aged 95, died on 25th May, just three days before this particular performance. With his brother, Robert, the pair wrote many a score for film and TV, including the ever popular Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and my favourite, I wanna be Like You from The Jungle Book. New songs were penned in 2002 when the newly crafted version by Jeremy Sams opened at the London Palladium. It ran for three and half years at the Palladium before an American run on Broadway and further afield.

If you are a car fanatic, like my brother was, you can see the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire.

Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield

Reviewed: 28th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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