The QT

Friday 14 June 2024

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Theatre Royal, Newcastle

When he found out Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal, Michael Telfer headed over Toot Sweet
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Caractacus Potts (Adam Garcia) shakes his ‘Ol Bamboo in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Credit Paul Coltas

When I was growing up my four younger sisters and I agreed on very little, and the short list of VHS films that could be played on the big telly was the result of similar levels of discussion and mediation as I would imagine were involved in the Versailles Treaty.

Only stone-cold family classics such as Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, The Princess Bride and 1984’s Supergirl (possibly a strange choice looking back now) made it anywhere near to the temperamental video player on the rare occasions that we would all sit round and watch a film together, but one film flew head and shoulders above the rest.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had everything. Stunts, laughs, gadgets, songs, romance and a car that was also a boat and a plane, it just never let you down. The story had everything you’d expect from a Road Dahl adaptation of an Ian Fleming book, and the film also boasted a host of songs penned by the legendary Sherman brothers.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
The car’s the star… Chitty saves the Potts family in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Credit Paul Coltas

A long overdue musical stage version debuted in the West End in 2002 and has been touring around the world ever since. The latest UK touring production hit the road this year and is at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday (June 8).

The show is fantastically produced and watching the famous car take off from the famous stage is a treat. The cast is an impressive mix of West End stalwarts, familiar faces from TV and rising stars, and they were all brilliant.

Adam Garcia was particularly impressive as Caractacus Potts, the crackpot inventor and doting single father of Jemima and Jeremy. He was charming and funny and landed every song perfectly from raucous dance number Me Ol’ Bamboo to haunting lullaby Hushabye Mountain.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Charlie Brooks sniffs out young Vulgarians as the Childcatcher. Credit Paul Coltas

His spiky relationship with Truly Scrumptious, splendidly played by Ellie Nunn, perfectly recreated Dick Van Dyke’s initially rocky courtship of Sally Ann Howes in the 1968 film, and was tremendous fun.

Elsewhere Liam Fox of Emmerdale fame provided a rumbustious and memorable Grandpa Potts and Jazmine Nyenya and Ayrton English were endearing and note perfect as the children Jemima and Jeremy Potts.

Charlie Brooks was suitably creepy and menacing as the Childcatcher, if slightly underused, although you forget how little screentime the Robert Helpmann character actually had in the original film given the impact he had on younger, more impressionable viewers.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Caractacus (Adam Garcia) Jeremy (Ayrton English) and Jemima Potts (Jazmine Nyenya) enjoy a day on the beach with Truly Scrumptious (Ellie Nunn). Credit Paul Coltas

For me the show is at it’s best when it stays close to the source material, and the only point my enjoyment dipped slightly was in the middle of the second half when some new songs pop up alongside a slightly contrived samba sequence that didn’t seem to add anything to the story.

That said, my 12-year-old daughter thought it was smashing.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Liam Fox as Grandpa Potts. Credit Paul Coltas

The exception to this observation is the expanded role given to the Vulgarian spies Boris and Goran (played by  Adam Stafford and Michael Joseph respectively) who become unlikely crowd favourites and almost steal the show with their back to back songs Think Vulgar and Act English.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a fantastic show for all the family, and will be thrilling lots of them at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday (June 8). Visit the website for tickets.


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