Plaudits are already flooding social media after the first night of this amazing show – and I can understand why. And it’s not just the car!
In fact, amazing as the famous Chitty is, and spectacular as the special effects are, the most fantasmagorical thing about the Savoyards’ interpretation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the standard of every single performer on the stage. From the perfectly choreographed ensemble numbers (I was breathless just watching ‘Old Bamboo’!) to the beautiful acting and singing supported by a wonderful band, you would be hard pushed to find anything better in the West End.
It seems unfair to single any individual out for praise given the talent and enthusiasm of everyone on stage, but I have to give a special mention to a few actors.
Paul Stevens as the bumbling Grandpa Potts gave a performance strongly reminiscent of Lionel Jeffries in the film, and captured the audience’s affection in the same way, while more comedy was provided by Mark Waldron and Olivia Pike as the Baron and Baroness, along with Rodger Hooper and Stephen Trasler as Boris and Goran, possibly the worst spies in the world. If you want out and out baddies though, Ben Spurling’s Child Catcher leered and grimaced his way across the stage, making a real impact in what is a relatively small role.
Emily Scotcher was in fine voice as Truly Scrumptious, the love interest of the central character, Caractacus Potts, played by Luke Cumberpatch. Excellent choices for the two leads, both these experienced actors dominated the stage and made what can be somewhat two dimensional characters both believable and engaging. Luke in particular had the responsibility for most of the main storyline and handled it with aplomb.
The real stars for me however, were the two young actors playing the Potts children: the singing and acting ability as well as the stage confidence of George Sales and Ellen Careless as Jeremy and Jemima has to be seen to be believed, and their duets with Truly and Grandpa Potts showed off their skills to the full.
Often overlooked, but specially important to a show like this are the backstage crew who really had their work cut out concealing as much on stage as they showed off. Yes, typically for a first night there was the odd bit of scenery that refused to stay in place but this was dealt with discreetly and took nothing away from the sheer breathtaking pace of the show – and yes, of course I have to mention the car itself. It looked superb: it moved, it swung round, it appeared to move through water and the air, accompanied by pyrotechnic flourishes – but it would be nothing without the amazing cast and crew surrounding it, and it was they who made Chitty Chitty Bang Bang such a captivating experience. Thank you Savoyards – a truly fantasmagorical show!!