Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Wales Millennium Centre

4th August 2016, Wales Millennium Centre

The golden décor of the Millennium Centre merely mirrored the magic that was put before us as the curtains rose to show the world famous Chitty car, winning the grand prix, before crashing into retirement.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is unarguably a classic; with nearing 50 years of fantasmagorical entertainment, this theatre adaptation had some rather large shoes to fill.

Lee Mead (Caractacus Potts) embodied Dick Van Dyke phenomenally – through both voice and physicality – particularly in musical numbers such as ‘The Old Bamboo’, where the dancing abilities of the cast are truly shown off, and ‘Hushabye Mountain’ where blissful harmonies and heartfelt melodies are simultaneously warming and chilling, and the audience is left feeling ready for bed themselves! This character is complimented wonderfully by Carrie Hope Fletcher (Truly Scrumptious) who stays true to Sally Ann Howes’ sweet but stern nature, giving off a modern-day feminist vibe whilst keeping with the 1968 aura of the original story. The movements of the “Doll on a music box” further demonstrates the modern take on the story, with the motions being much less robotic, however equally mesmerising. Whilst discussing Truly Scrumptious, it is impossible not to congratulate the backstage crew of the show, namely the costume designers (as I’d never wanted an entirely Robin’s egg blue pantsuit before watching the show!) and the more technical people, for wonderfully creating the illusion of Truly zooming past on her little motorbike, and for making Chitty genuinely soar!

The climax to this production differs from the infamous “just a dream” sequence of the Ken Hughes original, managing to make the story both more and less confusing; did the family really overthrow a monarchy with nothing but the help of some children?

Since the Cardiff performance, the cast now includes Jason Manford and Charlotte Wakefield playing the two principle roles, with Phil Jupitus playing both Baron Bomburst and Lord Scrumptious. It can be almost guaranteed that he and Claire Sweeney (the Baroness) will make an “oochie coochie pair”. The tour is headed up north to Scotland, and moves to the Bristol Hippodrome on the 25th of January, to finish on the 4th of February 2017 and – if the Cardiff show was anything to go by – this is a must-see performance.

by Sarah Thompson