Muddy watches – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Well they came, they sang and they conquered and Muddy was lucky enough to be within spitting distance of Jason Manford who played the role of Caractacus Potts (rather ruddy well actually)! More well-known for appearances on TV shows such Live at the Apollo, 8 Out of 10 Cats and QI, the seemingly multi-talented Jason Manford took to the stage like the proverbial duck to water.
Having recently toured the UK as Leo Bloom in The Producers and having appeared in the musical Sweeney Todd, he’s no stranger to the boards, but I’ve never seen him in that guise so it was all new to me. And what a cracking set of pipes (who knew)! When he opened his mouth, he was more Paul Potts, than Caractacus Potts (you remember Paul Potts, the super tenor, singer and winner of the first Britain’s Got Talent). Jason Manpipes (my new name for him), sang all of his songs with aplomb and had a great rapport with the two children playing Jeremy and Jemima (who were, incidentally, marvellous)!
Belting out the Chitty classics with Manford, were Phill Jupitus (The Producers, Hairspray) as Lord Scrumptious/Baron Bomburst and Claire Sweeney (Brookside, Hairspray) as Baroness Bomburst. Sweeney was superb as the child-hating Baroness, and played the panto dame, baddy to a tea (still got a great voice too, and didn’t mind gnarling her face up in exaggerated poses, to nail the character on the head – kinda like a vampiric Eartha Kitt in drag).
Jupitus (who Mini Muddy has loved since seeing him in Hairspray five years ago), was a funny, understated, brow-beaten Baron, who had regressed back to childhood to escape his Baroness wife. His little, comedic asides had me cracking up, but I’m not sure everyone quite got his take on the character.
Carrie Hope Fletcher (Les Misérables, War of the Worlds) was a very young, but wonderful Truly Scrumptious (Mini Muddy expressed concerns about the age difference of her and Manford, but hey, it’s theatre dwarling)! Her voice was superb, and she had that bouncy musical theatre quality where you feel very safe in her hands.
Special shout out to the comedy duo Goran and Boris, the hapless spies who try and foil the Potts family on their journey. The adult jokes and camping up of their parts had me snorting out my Sauv Blanc, much to the quizzical eye of the Mini Mudlet (although she did get the spotted dick gag). I could have watched these two on stage all night (along with smatterings of Grandpa Potts, who had a bit of the Catherine Tate Nan about him – and also busted some pretty fab dance moves – top marks). Similarly, The Childcatcher (Matt Gillet), was awesome. Sneery, scary and unscrupulous in his pursuit of ‘chiiiiildren’; alongside the superb video and lighting (huge Childcatcher hands projected onto the set), he had us all cowering in our seats.
Speaking of the set, video and illustrated drawings were projected throughout onto the backdrop, creating a really realistic and moveable piece (you really feel like you’re on the journey with them). I couldn’t fault the set at all, and Chitty floats and flies in front of your eyes (the look on the kids faces in the audience is priceless).
I have no doubt, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will have audiences of all ages flying high with its mixture of madness, intrigue and exuberance. It’s one of my fave stories ever, the loveable but wacky inventor, Potts, along with his two children and the gorgeous Truly Scrumptious outwitting the bombastic Baron Bomburst! The show is pretty faithful to the film (The Old Bamboo scene is wonderful) and I still knew most of the songs, all the faves are there, Truly Scrumptious, Toot Sweets, Hushabye Mountain and the Oscar-nominated title song Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
If you haven’t got your tickets, I’d get them now (honestly, it’s superb). It’s showing at the Royal & Derngate until Sunday 2 Oct, with tickets priced from £17 to £42.50 (great value for the amount of effort that has gone into this production). Just one last point which I found rather unsettling. On checking the programme afterwards, I come across the picture of the actor who plays the Childcatcher and realised that he is in fact, rather bloomin’ tasty. Chitty may never be the same again!!!
This production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang comes from the producers of Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma! and The King and I, and is directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining. To check times and to book, call Box Office on 01604 624811 or go to www.royalandderngate.co.uk.