This brand new production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang successfully weaves together modern takes on the classic musical film, while remaining fiercely loyal to its source material. From Thom Southerland’s direction to Morgan Large’s design, it certainly goes above and beyond what might be expected from any touring production.


Rest assured, no corners have been cut with regard to set design. OK, it may not match the lavish scale of the original Palladium production but Large’s design is no less impressive. The flying car is probably the only prop in musical theatre to receive an entrance applause which, it becomes apparent, is richly deserved. Chitty doesn’t just fly; she positively soars against the backdrop of this vast set design, rotating and veering as necessary. 


The (human) star of this piece is Ellie Nunn as Truly Scrumptious. She sings beautifully, with the Act Two opener ‘Lovely Lonely Man’ proving an unexpected highlight on opening night. She also performs ‘Doll on a Music Box’ with precision, both vocally and in her movement. Her Truly is the perfect match for Adam Garcia’s Caractacus Potts, who is slightly more understated but still a captivating watch. His interactions with the children Jeremy (Roshan Thomson) and Jemima (Gracie Cochrane) are heartfelt and genuinely tender.


There are also impressive performances from Liam Fox as Grandpa, who channels Lionel Jeffries from the 1968 movie, and gives a suitably comic rendition of ‘Posh’. Meanwhile, Martin Callaghan plays mock-villain Baron with just the right amount of petulance, although cover Bibi Jay’s Baroness proved to be the strongest of the husband/wife duo, in no small part due to her charismatic performance of ‘Bombie Samba’ -  a number unique to the musical version of the story.


This production is mightily impressive and, overall, a beautiful take on a classic story. However, Charlie Brooks did not quite hit the mark as The Childcatcher, playing what is quite a nuanced role just a little too big-and-bad but without shades of genuine creepiness and terror. Meanwhile, the Vulgarian spies Goran and Boris do not particularly benefit from the elevated role afforded to them in the stage production; what starts out as a charming musical hall-style act soon veers into mildly irritating pantomime schtick.


Karen Bruce’s choreography is for the most part fine but, in tandem with George Dyer’s musical supervision, sometimes on the big ensemble numbers such as ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ and ‘Toot Sweets’ doesn’t feel grand enough for the occasion. The compositions and choreography do the job but it never quite reaches the show-stopping moments one might expect from such excellent setpieces.


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a wonderful, fantasmagorical new production of what is a classic story, film and musical. It hits the right notes for those seeking a nostalgia overload and really should be considered the perfect family show. Its design undoubtedly sets a very high standard for future touring productions, with the famous flying car surely delighting audiences up and down the country over the coming months.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang plays at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 26 May, before embarking on a nationwide tour until May 2025. Tickets from £13: here.


Review: Tom Ambrose     Photo: Paul Coltas