Just 24 hours after its glittering world premiere at the London Palladium on Tuesday, the flying high stage musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was grounded due to technical difficulties with the famous car of the title. Last night's performance was cancelled, with many of the 2,000-strong audience waiting outside for an estimated 45 minutes before the decision was announced. All have been offered refunds or exchanges for their tickets.

At a cost of £6.2 million, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of the most expensive musicals in West End history, with a large chunk of that investment going into the high-tech wizardry behind the titular star of the show, which lifts off and flies out over the stalls. But last night, the car wouldn't start let alone fly.

Show producer Michael Rose said this was due to an electrical fault within the car's computer-activated system, which staff hoped to rectify. "We had to replace a component at the last minute and, because all the components have to speak to one another, there was a problem and the car would not start. Sadly, we could not fix it in time for the show and unfortunately had to cancel. It was very disappointing for the 2,000 people who had to be turned away, and for the cast, who are enjoying the show so much."

The stage show is based on the famous 1968 children's film with Dick Van Dyke. It stars Michael Ball as the Van Dyke character, madcap inventor and widow Caractacus Potts, who restores an old car with the help of his two children and friend Truly Scumptious, but much to the chagrin of the evil Bombursts from Vulgaria.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also stars 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 is adapted by Jeremy Sams with original music by the Sherman brothers, directed by RSC artistic director Adrian Noble, choreographed by Gillian Lynne 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 musical has already taken some £8 million at the box office. Performances are due to resume this evening.

- by Terri Paddock