When I booked us tickets to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Regent Theatre in Stoke it was much more for the kids’ benefit than my own. I enjoyed the film as a kid, but would never have counted Chitty as one of my favourite musicals. With geekson’s love of vehicles showing no signs of abating, despite a growing fondness for Minecraft, I was sure that a musical featuring a flying car would be right up his street, and it was really him that I had in mind when I made the booking. It made me very happy when one of his guide parents saw me post on Facebook that I’d booked tickets, and asked me to get one for her too so she could accompany us all.
So last weekend the 5 of us headed in to Stoke-on-Trent for the Saturday matinee performance of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And wow. I have to say I was completely blown away. In contrast to our recent visit to Impossible, the theatre was packed with a really enthusiastic audience – all around me I could hear singing as people joined in with their favourite songs. Toot Sweets, You Two, Team Work, and of course the iconic title song itself. Several times the audience started clapping along, which really helped boost the atmosphere.
The staging was impressive, featuring what is probably the best use of projection technology I have ever seen in any theatre anywhere. Moving scenes were projected all around the actors throughout the show, giving a really realistic and immersive experience. This was used to great effect with the driving and boating scenes, and really helped to create a sense of movement and excitement.
The actors were all really engaging to watch, with Jason Manford making a particularly loveable and accessible Caractacus Potts, Amy Griffiths the perfect Truly Scrumptious and Martin Kemp a suitably chilling child catcher. The kids performances were strong as well. But the real star of the show was the car – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang herself. She moved smoothly around the stage, and when she first took off to fly I must admit to having a lump in my throat. And when the geekson turned to me and excitedly whispered “the car’s flying Mummy!” – that nearly finished me off!
If you’ve seen the film you’ll know the story of the show – children find wrecked race car, persuade their father to restore it and then go off on adventures in it. There are a couple of sections which might worry younger or more sensitive children – the child catcher is suitably threatening, but never gets what I would consider truly scary. Both the geekdaughter (8) and geekson (5) were fine with the show, and both thoroughly enjoyed it.
I didn’t expect to love Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as much as I did. It’s gone from being a show that I felt decidedly ambivalent about to being one I would make a real effort to see again. It was the perfect blend of a feel good story with truly magical elements. When I take my kids to the theatre I really want them to see a live performance that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen in film or on television, and that is absolutely what Chitty Chitty Bang Bang delivered.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s run at the Regent Theatre has now finished, but the UK tour of the production continues, and you see the upcoming dates (including a run at The Lowry in Manchester later in the year) on the Chitty the Musical website. If you get the opportunity to see the show I recommend you grab it with both hands!