Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been reeling in the positive reviews this year, as critics generally agree that this show is one of the best the year has seen. With this in mind my expectations were high, and it did not disappoint.
Despite a little hiccup during the performance, it was mostly excellent. The slight hiccup came early on and was never really explained — the performance stopped and the safety curtain came down for around 15-20 minutes. It was later forgotten though, and really it was testament as to how good the performance was that they could recover seamlessly from it.
Local Mancunian Jason Manford was the lead role of inventor Caractacus Potts, and although he was pretty funny in the show, the comedian did not rely on his comedy for the role. His acting was superb, and his voice was surprisingly quite good. He’s not going to go on and bag himself a recording contract with Sony Records any time soon, but there wasn’t a rotten tomato in sight (this is a compliment, I think).
The comedy surprisingly came from elsewhere. Phil Jupitus and Claire Sweeney were hilarious as Baron and Baroness Bomburst. Their accents were not in the least bit convincing but I doubt that either of them cared, and nobody in the audience did either, as it simply added to their great comedic performances. The musical number of “Chu-Chi Face” was a personal highlight in the whole production, as the Baroness attempted to get the Baron’s attention away from toys and onto her. Innuendo rife.
The set was used well and was attractive throughout, but the main visual delight of this production was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang herself. She only went and bloody flew! Although the Lowry may not have a stage as big as the Palace or the Opera House, it is still a fairly big stage, that was filled by the car as it lifted into the air!
Filled with your favourite songs (which the two ladies next to me knew all the words to… loudly), the film has been adapted into a theatrical performance perfectly. “Truly Scrumptious”, “Toot Sweet”, and of course “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” all make an appearance in the play, to make sure that nobody is disappointed — and these songs are joined by quite a few new songs also.
Although all this sounds beautiful, don’t be under the impression that this play will not terrify the living day lights out of you. We may have to wait until after the intermission to really meet the Childcatcher, but Jos Vantyler’s portrayal of the character is utterly terrifying. Never mind the children, I was close to tears myself. The only negative of the whole production would be that perhaps it was too similar to the film — perhaps there could have been more brand new editions to the script. But perhaps that’s just me nit-picking so that I don’t seem too nice.