This classic musical flies high in Woking with its feel-good factor clear to see thanks to a strong cast.
There is something about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which makes you feel like a child again. Is it the magical car which takes off on stage, is it the wonderful songs and music? The story? In James Brining’s production it is certainly a combination of all these and more that makes it a delight to watch.
Adapted for the stage by Jeremy Sams, inventor Caractacus Potts must outwit Baron Bomburst who has passed a law forbidding any children in his country and is determined to get his hands on chitty – the most fabulous car ever to be invented. But can Caractacus with the help of his two children and the lovely Truly Scrumptious defeat the Baron and free the children?
The production manages to get around certain problems which aren’t as easy to deal with on stage as on film – for example the numerous location changes that take place. But thanks to the combined efforts of Simon Higlett’s well thought out set design and Simon Wainwright’s clever video design, the action moves between the family home, the funfair and of course the Baron’s castle with ease and style.
Throughout there is a carefree and entertaining feel about the production, but yet it is able to add just a hint of scariness to add another layer in the form of Jos Vantyler’s excellently evil childcatcher, moving around with menace – that even put a chill down my spine. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also puts a stronger emphasis on the loss of Jeremy and Jemima’s mother – leading to a very haunting rendition of ‘Hushabye Mountain’.
It is also interesting to see the way in which the Baron and Baroness along with the two spies are integrated more into the story from the very beginning. Although it is slightly disorientating at first it is also great to see the spies (Sam Harrison and Scott Paige) adding extra fun and laughter in scenes including the number ‘Act English’.
Jason Manford as Caractacus Potts is sweet, awkward but ultimately charming. He has some big shoes to fill in the form of Dick Van Dyke but does well to bring his own take to the role, particularly in ‘Hushabye Mountain’ that showcases the range of his voice well. Meanwhile, Claire Sweeney as the Baroness and Phill Jupitus as the Baron are perfectly matched in their performances, with Jupitus’s delivery of lines delightfully deadpan but still a strong personality and Sweeney suitably bossy and in control at all times that is perfectly captured during ‘Chu-Chi Face’.
Charlotte Wakefield as Truly has a natural chemistry with Jason Manford, but it feels as though her role has perhaps been slightly underwritten as it feels as though she could have been used a lot more. But vocally of course, she is strong and confident, particularly ‘Lovely Lonely Man’.
But it is Sam Harrison and Scott Paige that add the most laughs and are a delight to watch in their over the top performances as Boris and Goran, their dialogue suitably playful for the children but with just a hint of innuendo for the adult audience members to enjoy. Everything they do is exaggerated, but not to the point where it becomes tiresome – they keep their performances well reigned in.
It is a lovely and charming production of a classic that has plenty of heart and a ability to make you sing along from beginning to end. Truly scrumptious!