Peter Polycarpou (pictured) has been confirmed as the next Childcatcher in the £6.2 million production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the West End's London Palladium (See The Goss, 7 Nov 2002). He follows in the footsteps of Richard O'Brien and current star Paul O'Grady (aka Lily Savage), taking over from the latter for three months from 9 December 2002.

A familiar television face from his five years as ex-con husband Chris in Birds of a Feather, Polycarpou is also a stage regular who most recently starred at London's Bridewell in this summer's revival of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. His musical theatre credits include The Secret Garden, Oklahoma!, Evita and Miss Saigon.

Other names mentioned in connection with the role of the sinister Chitty Childcatcher have included Tony Slattery and comedian Frank Skinner, who may yet appear as the role seems to attract stars for short stints.

The stage musical 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. The cast also currently includes Anton Rodgers, Brian Blessed, Nichola McAuliffe, Edward Petherbridge and Emma Williams.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - which opened at the Palladium on 16 April 2002 (previews from 19 March) - 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 original children's book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was written by Ian Fleming.

- by Terri Paddock