Epic is a little word with a huge impact and as far as musicals are concerned Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fits the bill. The Sherman Brothers penned soundtrack which includes “Truly Scrumptious”, “Doll on a Music Box” and the eponymous title track has had over half a century to embed itself on our conscience via the 1968 film presentation and numerous stage adaptations.
The latest stage presentation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from CentreStage Cymru which opened at Newport’s Dolman Theatre on Wednesday evening fully deserves the epic status. It features colourful vibrant sets, comical characterisations, uplifting song and dance routines and of course various transports of delight including motorcycles, balloons and flying cars to drive the action along.
Directed by Andre-Paul Spring with choreography by Sharon Higgins and musical direction by Victoria Bryant, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang follows the story of eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts who sets about restoring an old race car from a scrap heap with the help of his children Jeremy and Jemima. It’s not long until they realise the car (named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang due to its unique sound) has magical properties including the ability to float and fly. However, the car has already attracted the attention of the Baron and Baroness Bomburst, rulers of Vulgaria who send two spies to steal her.
Marc Williams takes the lead as the charismatic inventor, Caractacus Potts. Williams portrayal is lively, fun and energetic as he ducks, dives and jumps through tightly choreographed ensemble pieces. He also steers the infamous Chitty Chitty Bang Bang around the stage as he sings. Not an easy task!
Matthew Campbell and Lois Evans are delightful as Caractacus children, Jeremy and Jemimah and contribute to one of my favourite moments from the show, giving a heart-warming performance of Posh alongside Kevin Dyer’s wonderful pipe-chomping old timer, Grandpa Potts. Dyer’s portrayal of the eccentric Grandfather is a pure joy to watch (and in places a lovely homage to the big screen Grandpa – Lionel Jeffries), especially as he leads an ensemble of dithering dancing professors on The Roses of Success.
Leading lady, Bethan Daniels gives a sumptuous portrayal of Truly Scrumptious. Her highlight undoubtedly been the mesmerising magically choreographed sequence at the Baron’s birthday party in which she poses as a doll, singing the memorable Doll in a Music Box.
Joseph Michael and Chris Davies are energetic and animated as bungling Vulgarian Spies, Goran and Boris. The pair clearly have a fun time, and this filters over into the audience appreciation of their performance.
Jordan Archer and Sharon Higgins get to have some playful moments as the Baron and Baroness. While Archer balances his characters child-like obsessions with that of a would-be tyrannical ruler, Sharon Higgins portrays the Baroness as the real power behind the throne. The pair duet on the fun Chu-Chi Face which includes some high note performances from the Baroness (with a little help from her favourite beverages).
Special mention must also go to Charlie Turner whose marvellously grotesque performance of the sniffy Vulgarian child-catcher is enthralling as it is memorable.
As ever with Centrestage Cymru productions there is much to enjoy from the tightly choreographed ensemble performances, standout moments include Me Old Bamboo (featuring Marc Williams as Caractacus), Toot Sweets (in the tasty sweet factory) and the lively The Bombie Samba (in the Vulgarian Palace). The brilliant Juvenile ensemble also make their presence felt with a performance of Teamwork before leading a riotous invasion of the stage, a moment which is a joy to watch!
Of course, one of the main attractions of the show is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang herself, a floating and flying car that really has to be seen to be believed, praise undoubtedly should go to the technical team for creating one of the most iconic moments in local theatre history as the car takes flight!
The success of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang means that all four performances at Newport’s Dolman Theatre have sold out. So, if you were fortunate to book your tickets early you are in for a treat. Centrestage Cymru demonstrate once again that, as the song says “Teamwork” really “can make a dream work!!”