Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Tour - Oxford)
The trend for adapting films into stage musicals is one that has not always been welcomed. Luckily the Sherman brothers wrote some good numbers for the film and these are by far the strongest moments of the stage version. I have to admit that some of the new additions are much less successful (not helped by a sound design which unfortunately renders a good percentage of the lyrics inaudible).
Of course, what people really want to see is the car. You certainly won’t be disappointed – it is there – gleaming and sparkling away under the lights and gets the expected gasps of delights from the audience. Given the limitations of a touring production, the flight sequences are slick and thrill the audiences. The overall design of the show is very polished – costumes and sets evoke the originals without being slavish and there is much to delight the eye.
The adaptation of the script is, perhaps, not the strongest I have seen. There is an over-reliance on scatological humour which might not sit well with some people and some of the puns are so bad to remind one of the worst crackers you have ever had the misfortune to pull. It captures most of the spirit of the film though and keeps the audience engaged throughout.
In terms of performances, Katy Ray as Truly Scrumptious is the vocal star of the show. She is clear, sparky and makes the most of each word and gesture. Darren Bennett is, perhaps, not quite a large enough stage presence to really shine as Caractacus Potts. He is a fantastic dancer – as Me Ol’ Bamboo clearly demonstrates and has a good rapport with his children. However there is a certain twinkle missing to lift his performance from good to great.
Being honest, this is not the greatest musical you will ever see. It is, however, a very polished and stylish piece of family entertainment – ideally suited as an alternative to the pantomimes that fill our theatres at this time of year.