Thursday, 19 August 2010

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Congress Theatre Eastbourne Review

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Congress Theatre Eastbourne
18th August-4th September

Shows seen 19th August and 2nd September

Cast as below. Just press the play button

I thought for ages about how to list the cast credits for this fabulous production.

With so many people involved in such a lavish show I didn't want to leave anybody out. Listing by hand would have been a possibility but equally the result would have been a rather lengthy, somewhat uninspiring, list.

So I did something a little different for this one. I hope you like the result? Obviously for reasons of copyright I couldn't use Chitty's music or official images so the pictures are my own and the soundtrack is licenced.

Not booked a ticket for Chitty yet? What the heck are you waiting for? Miss it and you will be missing what is the most extravagant, lively and technically impressive musical Eastbourne has probably ever seen. Take your children, the grandchildren, your granny or grandad - anybody who doesn't enjoy it probably deserves to be placed in the sewers beneath Vulgaria anyway.

I can't remember ever having been to a show where the major prop got a massive round of applause due to its brilliance. But Chitty manages it and not just once either.

You can pick up Chitty seats for as little as £15.50 and they range up to £38.50. However normally the cheaper seats mean you may not appreciate the show quite as much because you are further back in the auditorium.

In this case I really believe the reverse could be true. Chitty's mechanics look really impressive in the stalls. In the Circle and the Grand Circle it must look even more awesome as Chitty first prepares to float and then, of course, to fly.

So don't be deterred if you can only get circle seats, you may just feel that for this show it's best for an aerial view to appreciate the amazing technology which has been implemented.

The cast? Fabulous! Every single actor and actress does the iconic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang story and original movie proud and delivers a faultless performance.

Being a big kid I still love the original movie and it is probably my favourite big screen musical. I am sure even Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes would be impressed watching Darren Bennett and Katie Ray play the roles of Caractacus Potts and Truly Scrumptious with such an authentic perfection.

Yes some may say Chitty is a little cheesy as musicals go and perhaps a tad far fetched with cars that can float and fly. But we don't hear the same criticism being directed at James Bond though do we? Actually I've just realised Ian Fleming created Chitty as well as Bond hence the similarities.

Chitty's eccentricities are part of it's charm. My favourite part of the original film is where  Caractacus and Truly do their "puppets in boxes" routine as they perform for Baron Bomburst. This is recreated on stage beautifully as Katie does her clockwork music box doll routine with robotic exactness and Darren flops around the stage just as Dick Van Dyke did so well in the 1968 movie.

Honestly I could waffle about the cast all night on this one. I could bore you to death. The spies Goran and Boris are hilarious. Kim Ismay? Well she has played Baroness Bomburst on a previous tour and has returned to the role again. An utterly brilliant comical actress you can see why she was welcomed back with open arms. Tony Jackson is the ideal toymaker and friend of all the "banned kiddies". As for renowned actor Edward Peel as the Baron and Lord Scrumptious. Well for an actor who has normally done the "serious stuff" like The Bill and London's Burning I can't imagine anybody who could have played these very funny roles better.

Oh dogs! I almost forgot the dogs. Yes as if the massive cast are not enough we have loads of talented dogs taking part too - great for the aaaaah factor!

The original story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been treated with respect and all the best moments are included in this two hour show. The only changes are numerous one-liners which crop up throughout the show and which obviously work from the roars of laughter from the crowd.

Since the show ended it has occurred to me why this show works so incredibly well. It is because it is like one huge over-the-top summer pantomime. All the elements are there. We have the goodies and the baddies - at this stage I must mention Dean Maynard who did a super job as the evil child catcher - when everybody boos you know all is well. The excruciatingly bad jokes are all in there too. Extravagant costumes, great choreography, animals on stage - it really has got the lot.

Max Patrick Weitzman as Jeremy PottsMia Jenkins as Jemima PottsBut I have left until the end the two stars who really deserve a special mention and those are the talented youngsters who play Jeremy and Jemima Potts.

On the tour the role is shared between 8 amazing young actors and actresses.

 On the evening we went the roles were played by eight year old, Max Patrick Weitzman and nine year old Mia Jenkins. What a lovely performance these two young stars delivered.

The elderly friend we took to this performance has a friend who is Mia's grandmother. We know Mia's nan was in Eastbourne to see her granddaughter - having seen the production she must have left one very proud grandparent.

Incidentally don't put off seeing this because you hope it may tour near you in the future. It could be a mistake because Chitty's set ,props and mechanics are so extensive I can imagine there are many large theatres usually accustomed to large musicals that simply couldn't accommodate this. It's a case of see-it-where-you-can!

That just leaves a rating. Having seen it it really seems 5 stars are inadequate and that I really should invent a "diamond rating" or something for shows that really are something special. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a very special production.

Until I invent such a rating this will have to do:
5 out of 5 for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
(and then some!)

Edit: 2nd September 2010. Being one really special musical this was one we couldn't resist going to see for a second time. Talking to audience members in the foyer we found out we weren't the only repeat visitors to this lovely production either. Great to see that in its last few days in Eastbourne Chitty can buck the national trend of dwinding audiences - it was still an extremely high attendance.

By pure coincidence Max and Mia our wonderful young stars of our first show were also in this performance. The show was just as enjoyable the second time round and everybody's performance equally as impressive.

Everybody in Chitty is a star but the biggest cheer and loudest applause of the evening was justifiably directed at the incredible Max and Mia and I am sure the rest of the cast don't mind a bit. These young stars look great together on stage and I am sure that, in the world of performing arts, they both have a great future ahead of them.

This time we had the opportunity to meet the cast as they left (except for Edward Peel who we discovered before the show started). It's always nice to meet a cast after such a large show that is so incredibly friendly and kids that child catcher is actually quite friendly too! (although one sweet little girl at the stage door was still a little wary, bless her). She was still taking hesitant steps as Dean Maynard said softly "But you're not scared of me now are you?". ("No Dean she's only terrified now :)" )

Who got the biggest cheer at the stage door? Yes Max and Mia had clearly been taken into to the hearts of the Eastbourne audience. Even though there were still 2 days left to go this was Max and Mia's final show in Eastbourne - it must have been great to end by getting such a huge reaction both on stage and off!

This time we also got the opportunity to meet Mia's nan, Carol, and her very extremely proud family. I would like to thank both Max, Mia and their families so much for letting me take a couple of pictures of two outstanding young performers.

An outstanding production, with an incredible cast. Truly memorable.

Max Patrick Weitzman, Mia Jenkins and a few of the many other stars in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2010


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1 comment:

  1. Truly Scrumptious - unless, like me, you saw the original West End production. The cuts in this production are so severe that it looks like a bad Am Dram shot at the impossible!

    The original car race opening made sense. One rather bad child actress bouncing up and down totally improbably in a wrecked car is no real substitute.

    The breakfast machine moment was so short that even the microwave generation would find it unbelievable. Grandpa looked like cousin in heavy make-up, Lord Scrumptious looked like the child-catcher on his day off and his alter-ego Baron Bomburst reminded me of one of LS Lowry's matchstalk men! Memories of Brian Blessed, perfectly cast in the same role made this feeble characterisation all the more improbable.

    The best song in the show, 'Kiddiewiddiewinkies' had disappeared without trace (a bit like the phenomenal 'Revenge of the Nursery Toys' scene in 'Mary Poppins' and probably for the same totally pathetic reason to do with not scaring children!) See 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' or 'Peter Pan' to see how this is done properly!

    Fortunately all was forgiven (or nearly) because Chitty Flew - but not for as long or as dramatically as she did at the London Paladium.

    If you havent seen it - go. It is still a hell of an experience. If you saw the original West End run then steer well clear and live on your memories!


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