Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Bristol Hippodrome 2017
Our Verdict: Absolutely outstanding
Our Rating: 10/10
Fresh, inventive whilst remaining faithful to the original film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The Bristol Hippodrome, is a triumph of modern musical theatre.
Seldom do productions come together so magnificently, that even when there are some minor technical difficulties with the set, we just don’t care.
The iconic 60’s film originally staring the beloved Dick Van Dyke, has been very faithfully recreated for the stage. It features the characters, story, songs and of course, the car that we all know and love.
An impressive cast headed by Jason Manford, enthralled an audience from the very young to the very old. People of all ages were clamouring for more when the curtain finally fell.
Jason Manford made a wonderfully bumbling and bemused Caractacus Potts, a widower trying to raise his two children in a windmill surrounded by his bonkers inventions. What I really love about Manford’s acting, is that he uses a normal voice. He sounds like a normal person. He can sing, dance and act, but what he doesn’t have is that incredibly irritating, whining Musical Theatre Voice, which has been plaguing the West End touring productions I’ve seen over the last few years.
What also really sets this production apart, is the clever video design by Simon Wainwright. It helps give the illusion of open countryside, travel and flight in the scenes featuring the magical car. It’s so breathtaking, that even when there was a minor technical hitch, nobody seemed phased in the slightest. It was far too exciting watching balloons crossing the skies and a static car driving through open countryside.
The glorious Phil Jupitus and Claire Sweeny as the Baron and Baroness, didn’t take their roles too seriously thus providing the laughs of the evening. Claire Sweeny was a surprisingly good singer and made a wonderfully wicked child-hating witch.
Perhaps top billing really should go to the car itself. We’re all excited, we all want to see it, we all want it to go up in the air…and it does. Boxes ticked, audiences thrilled. I was a tad downhearted not to see its flying wings, but then you can’t please everyone all of the time.
Youngsters may find Jos Vantyler’s Childcatcher scary. A fair few in the audience burrowed into their seats during his scenes. The show is probably best suited for well behaved children and adults aged five years upwards. The first half is quite long, but that’s still no excuse for talking, chatting and breaking open a picnic bag of food – long hard look at the people on my left last night. And just so we are really clear, live theatre should never be a question and answer session between a family of four and yes, they really do mean it when they say mobile phones off. No, really.
It’s hard to pull out a Best Bit because there are so many of them. I’m going with Me Ol’ Bamboo, simply because it’s my favourite scene in the film, and it was just as fab on stage.
This is an outstanding production. Bristol gets lots of great theatre at The Bristol Hippodrome. As a city we are very lucky. But absolutely go and see this show because it will be one of this year’s best.
For more information: www.chittythemusical.co.uk