Chris High reviews Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on

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Chris High reviews: The Liverpool Empire performance of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2006

Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Gary Wilmott, Paul Greenwood, Marissa Dunlop, David Henry,
Jane Gurnett, Alvin Stardust, Chynna Louise Brennan, Ben Darcy
Director: Adrian Noble
Adaptation: Jeremy Sams
Choreography: Gillian Lynne
Liverpool Empire Theatre
Wednesday 20th September 2006

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Review of
from Liverpool Empire Theatre

It’s difficult to know where to begin a review of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Superb is an understatement and Spectacular only contains eleven letters. Fantasmagorical, whatever it means, will just have to do. With a cast of over 70 that includes 10 dogs, sensational sets and astonishing special effects this action-packed adventure is the story of the magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Following award-winning runs in both The West End and on Broadway, the show has hit the road at full speed to delight and entertain audiences wherever it has travelled and, on this performance, it is little wonder.

The sets are a child’s gigantic colouring book of oversized, grandiose machines that lend themselves perfectly, though never outshine, the story of eccentric, penniless inventor Caractacus Potts (Wilmott) his two children, Jeremy and Jemima (Brennan and Darcy), Truly Scrumptious (Dunlop) and Grandfather Potts (Greenwood) who have nothing to give the children, but dreams. That is until one day Jeremy and Jemima find that their favourite plaything, a clapped out old heap of a car, is for sale at forty shillings. Somehow Caractacus finds the money and returns the car to its former glory, much to the chagrin of the vile Vulgarians who covet the vehicle’s hidden extras.

Like slipping into a pair of comfy slippers, the memories of childhood come flooding back, as each tune is performed with enough emotion to spring an oily tear from the most rusted of headlights. Toot Sweets, You Two, Truly Scrumptious and, of course, Chitty Chitty Chitty Bang Bang come alive on stage though the brightest of musical highlights were reserved for the fantastically well choreographed Me Ol Bamboo performed before a fairground picked out in twinkling, multi-coloured fairy lights, Gary Wilmott’s moving version of Hushaby Mountain and The Roses Of Success performed superbly well by Paul Greenwood. In addition, Marissa Dunlop showed her vocal talents exquisitely as Truly pretended to be a doll in a music box.

Special mention should also be given to Chynna Louise Brennan and Ben Darcy. These two youngsters are in virtually every scene, yet their professionalism and talent – at such a tender age – is nonetheless evident.

David Henry and Janet Gurnett – unrecognisable beneath her make up from her role as Kate Russell, manager of the later version Crossroads Motel – were impressively bumptious and overstated in their roles as Baron and Baroness Bomburst, though it is a little puzzling as to why the birthday bash they host has a Brazilian theme.

There has to be a baddie and here Alvin Stardust excelled as the pale faced, bald headed, top-hatted, black cloaked, hook carrying Child Catcher, who’s job it is to ensure the Republic of Vulgaria remains child free by virtue of his ability to smell children’s blood.
If hisses and boos were applause, Stardust would have brought the house down by himself.

Naturally enough, however, in this show the car is very definitely the star and its bow was taken in full mesmerising style as she at first floats like a hovercraft on a sea of dry ice, before finally taking to the air in a manner guaranteed to bring gasps of wonder-filled delight from both children and adults alike. If there is one thing that makes this show stand out it is the effects and this tops anything there is on the musical stage at the moment. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is fast, fantastic and fun. If you’re six or sixty-six, make a point of booking to see this extravaganza (a dozen letters still aren’t enough to do it justice) when it flies into a town near you over the coming twelve months.

Chitty On Tour 2006 / 07

Liverpool Empire … Sept 18 – Nov 18
Edinburgh Playhouse … 2 Dec – 24 Feb (2007)
Bristol Hippodrome … 12 Mar – 9 June
The Mayflower, Southampton … 25 June – 15 Sept
(Cast and dates may change. Check local press for details)


Click here to view details and book for the Liverpool Empire Theatre



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