Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the ultimate feel-good musical with the fantasmagorical car with anthropomorphic properties. And the car IS the star, even though the rest of the show is a superb concoction of colour, sing-along tunes and vibrant dancing.
There is also much humour, mainly supplied by two Laurel and Hardy-type spies, Goran and Boris (Nigel Garton and Richard Ashton) who are trying to steal Chitty for child-like Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria (Edward Peel) and his hilarious saucy wife, the Baroness (Kim Ismay).
The car, once a race winner, is languishing in a junkyard but is soon revived as a shiny new machine by widowed inventor. His two children, Jeremy and Jemima were played delightfully by Elliott Allinson and Rachel Corrigan last night though there other child-actor couples rotate the roles.
Truly Scrumptious (Katie Ray), the daughter of a sweet-maker, bowls into the junkyard on her faulty motorbike bumping into Caractacus and his children. Romance soon blossoms. Katie is a vision in beautiful Edwardian outfits, and her singing voice is like cut glass. With Caractacus they are an enchanting couple.
The dance routines, in Lord Scrumptious’ Sweet Factory, the Funfair, and in Vulgaria are bright, energetic and truly entertaining. Particularly impactful songs are The Ol Bamboo danced by the troupe in white Morris Dancer costumes with multi-coloured waistcoats and bright socks, and of course Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that is reprised throughout the show.
However it is not all sweetness and light, for in the state of Vulgaria a child-catcher lurks, evilly played with chilling menace by Dean Maynard. Dressed all in black with two tall quirky feathers sprouting from his top hat, and sporting a spooky pointed nose he roams the kingdom seeking out and locking up any children he finds. This is because Baroness Bomburst, hates kiddies. She faints even at the mention of them! Jeremy and Jemima, of course, predictably fall into his clutches.
One delightful aspect of Chitty are the many dogs that scamper across the stage from time to time. It is amazing that they do not stray, but rush in a pack from one side to the other, much to the glee of the audience.
Chitty is colourful, musically engaging, and amazing. The car, of course, is what everyone comes to see, and you really do believe it can fly, such is the wonder of modern technology and theatrical artifice.