Bristol Hippodrome

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

January 2017

A must-see musical motor show

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a junior James Bond musical retold by our greatest children’s novelist Roald Dahl.

Based on an original story by Ian Fleming is has all his ingredients of madcap gadgets, vile villains, Eastern bloc espionage and glamour girls with outrageous names.

Add a camp double act of Vulgarian spies played by Sam Harrison and Scott Paige, Never Mind The Buzzcocks star Phill Jupitus as the spoilt brat of a baron, Jos Vantyler as the sinister child catcher plus a magical flying car and this all adds up to exciting night at the theatre.

Oh! and did I mention Morris dancing or a duet by a musical box doll and jack-in-the-box?

This is the best family show I have seen at the Bristol Hippodrome and one not to be missed.

Despite seeing the 1968 Walt Disney film starring Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, James Robertson Justice, and Robert Helpmann as the main antagonist, the evil child catcher umpteen times the stage version surprised, scared and delighted me.

Northern comedian Jason Manford plays widower Caractacus Potts, a failed inventor who lives in a windmill with his two children -- Jemima and Jeremy - along with his old dad played by Andy Hockley who sports a handlebar moustache and wears army combat fatigues.

Caractacus needs 30 shillings to buy a broken-down grand prix winning racing car from Coggins Garage for his children.

After one harebrained money making scheme after another including a stint as a mobile hairdresser there is a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment when Caractacus sells his whistling ‘toot sweet’ to Lord Scrumptious.

Phill also doubles as the father of the deliciously named love interest Truly Scrumptious played by Charlotte Wakefield .

She is a real sugar with a superb singing voice who rides a back-firing motorcycle.

Thus, with the money raised the adventure begins in earnest and the first drama is when a khaki clad Granddad Potts gets kidnapped while using his khazi - an outbuilding cleverly disguised as a sentry box.

It could be a scene from It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Oh What A Lovely War. ‘Ello ‘Ello with a bit of Dad’s Army added for good measure into the military mix.

A number reminisce of ‘hold it’ Flash, Bang, Wallop in Half A Sixpence is the high energy song Me ‘Old Bamboo and this is a showstopper.

Then when the dastardly foreign secret agents attempt to lose their Slavic accents they ask ‘can you speak English and be Vulgar(ian)?’ but decide ‘that would make us American’.

This got lots of laughs as did their outlandish disguises from old-fashioned petrol pumps to web-foot frogmen and some of their chummy Germanic dance routines were straight from Cabaret.

When wondering aloud if the car called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang can float a small voice from the stalls shouted ‘yes’ much to the mirth of the audience.

Like Lord Sebastian Flyte in Evelyn Waugh's 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited the childish Baron behaves like a big baby and is besotted by his teddy bear. He wears satin pyjamas in the royal colour purple emblazoned with the Vulgarian coat of arms and bounces on his bed.

His biggest birthday wish is to own the car and he intends to get it by fair means or foul.

The cogs and sails from the backdrop plus clever graphics and dot-to-dot linking lights – a forerunner to the amazing stuff you get in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (another must see show) – are illuminating!

There are three teams of children alternating in the role of Jeremy and Jemima Potts and on opening night it was the delectable Finn Richards and Emma Jane Shorrock.

A decade ago it was budding super star Megan Bell from Nailsea who took the child role and this year schoolboy Alex Coghlan-Forbes is among the local youngsters treading the boards or more aptly crawling through sewers with the talented ensemble.

And like all things ‘live’ not everything goes to plan because although the hydraulic high performance wonder car whizzed through the countryside and floated on water it flew minus its bright yellow and red striped wings on opening night.

Bristol Hippodrome marketing and communications manager Nicola Guy said: “There was a technical issue and this was resolved for the following performance."

Jason is the lynch pin of an all-singing, all-dancing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as the 8 Out Of 10 Cats star has a fine voice, some good dance moves, and a surprisingly understated light touch in his performance.

But Phill and Claire Sweeney put in splendidly gross performances as the Baron and Baroness.

  • As an aside from Aerin to Zuma parents in 2017 are choosing some of the chicest monikers to date. But did anyone watch The Voice which has a contestant called Truly Scrumptious? The singer, who now goes by the stage name Truly Ford, is being coached by Gavin Rossdale.

Carol Deacon

Preview: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang we love you 

Is it a book, is it a film no it’s a musical about a magical flying motor car.

Family favourite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang makes a pitstop at the Bristol Hippodrome in the new year.

Based on the beloved 1968 film version of Ian Fleming's children's book, and featuring an unforgettable score by the Sherman Brothers who wrote Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one family-friendly blockbuster that audiences will find Truly Scrumptious.

An eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts sets about restoring an old race car from a scrap heap with the help of his children, Jeremy and Jemima.

They soon discover the car has magical properties, including the ability to float and take flight.

Trouble occurs when the evil Baron Bomburst desires the magic car for himself.

The family joins forces with Truly Scrumptious and batty Grandpa Potts to outwit the dastardly Baron and Baroness and their villainous henchman, the Child Catcher.

Filled with amazing stage spectacle and unforgettable songs, including the Academy Award-nominated title song, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a high-flying, fun-filled adventure for the entire family.

The large cast and opportunities for true stage magic make this a challenging, but highly rewarding, show for any organization looking to bring a large-scale production with great name recognition to their theatre.

It stars Charlotte Wakefield in the role of Truly Scrumptious and Jos Vantyler as the dastardly child catcher.

It runs at the city theatre from Tuesday to Saturday, January 25-February 4.

West End stage performer Charlotte has also starred in television soaps Waterloo Road, The Royal and Holby City and Jos is an award-winning Shakespearean newcomer.

Jason Manford (The Producers, Sweeney Todd) is Caractacus Pott, Phill Jupitus (The Producers, Hairspray) is Lord Scrumptious and Baron Bomburst, Claire Sweeney (Hairspray, Chicago, Guys and Dolls) is Baroness Bomburst and Andy Hockley (The Phantom of the Opera) is Grandpa Potts. 

 The show has music and lyrics by the Sherman brothers who also wrote Mary Poppins, The Slipper and the Rose, The Aristocats and The Jungle Book. 

This new production is directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse artistic director James Brining, with new choreography by Stephen Mear.

There is a live orchestra with musical supervision by Stephen Ridley.

PHOTOS: Alastair Muir