The hugely anticipated stage musical adaptation of classic 1968 children's film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang receives its world premiere at the West End's London Palladium tonight, 16 April 2002, following previews since 19 March.

With an all-star cast and high-tech wizardry that sends that famous car flying above the stage, Chitty is one of the most expensive musicals in West End history. But it has already recouped far more than its initial £6.2 million investment, having taken £8 million in advance sales at the box office before it's even opened.

The stage show also marks the return of Michael Ball, who played Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke in the film), to musical theatre, having last been seen in the 1996 production of Stephen Sondheim's Passion. His other musical credits include Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love, which helped to launch his solo singing career with the #1 hit song "Love Changes Everything".

Also in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cast are Anton Rodgers (Grandpa Potts), [Brian Blessed (The Baron), Nichola McAuliffe (The Baroness), Richard O'Brien (The Childcatcher), Edward Petherbridge (The Toymaker/Coggins) and 18-year-old newcomer Emma Williams (Truly Scrumptious).

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang follows the adventures of madcap inventor Caractacus Potts. Caractacus, a widower who delights in eccentric gadgets, sets about restoring an old car from a scrap heap with the help of his two children, and a lady friend named Truly Scrumptious. However, when the car develops magical properties, it attracts the evil attention of Baron Bomburst.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is adapted by Jeremy Sams with original music by the Sherman brothers, directed by RSC artistic director Adrian Noble, choreographed by Gillian Lynn2 and designed by Anthony Ward, with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Andrew Bruce, orchestrations and dance arrangements by Chris Walker, and musical direction and supervision by Robert Scott. The book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was written by Ian Fleming and originally published in hardback in three parts.

The story was turned into a hugely popular movie in 1968, starring Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes. The Sherman brothers, Richard M and Robert B, were Oscar-nominated for the title song. The producer was Albert R Broccoli and the director was Ken Hughes. Children's writer Roald Dahl adapted James Bond-creator Fleming's text for the screenplay.

Also in the nearly 50-strong Chitty cast are Helen Baker, Julie Barnes, Leo Bidwell, Peter Bishop, Darren Carnall, Stuart Chaffer, Ben Clare, Lisa Cook, Phyllida Crowley Smith, Ray C Davis, Ross Dawes, Steve Elias, Darren Ja Fawthrop, Nia Fisher, Ben Garner, Jocelyn Hawkyard, Emma Hennigan, David Henry, Graham Hoadly, Maria Holley, Nic Ineson, Nicholas Johnson, Bret Jones, Emma Kerslake, Robert Kramer, David Lee, Rory Locke, Remy Martyn, Gary Milner, Claire Morland, Liza Pullman, Matthew Rixon, David Ross, Tommi Sliiden, Scarlett Strallen, Lynsey Wise and Emil Wolk.

- by Terri Paddock