CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG - 18 MAY 2002

For an evening of pure entertainment Chitty Chitty Bang Bang hits the mark but for me it just falls short of the spectacular that it obviously has the potential to be. At times, and maybe this was because I was at a matinee, it felt as though you were at a pantomime, albeit a very professional one, as the audience booed the spies and the child catcher.

The Palladium is a vast stage and the set has been made on the massive scale. There were some marvellous sets which had been made for the show and they were uniformly excellent with the toy shop being one of the best and on the whole filled the stage. Becuase of the size of the stage even when there were several things on, as in the Potts hosuehold, you were not able to get any intimacy. The sweet factory had a marvellous amount of machinery at the back of the stage and due to it's size that was where it stayed. I know it had to be staged somewhere sizeable with the amount of technology required and space for Chitty but I felt it has been at the detriment to the intimacy and heart of the show.

Michael Ball sang well (as one would expect) and even danced OK but I never felt as though it was Caractacus Potts on stage. Emma Williams's Truly was well played and sang and she and Michael had a good rapport. George Gilles and Carrie Fletcher as Jeremy and Jemima were excellent, playing very convincing characters. There was excellent support from Anton Rogers, Nichola Maculiffe, Richard O'Brien and 'the spies' (Emil Volk & DAvid Ross) . Brian Blessed when given the chance still shows he hads a good voice but I found his diction hard at times and felt he could have toned things down a little bit.

Chitty performed to perfection with all the right noises and gadgets at the appropriate time and the flying of the car was truly a great site to see. Actualy seeing the car fly was great but to actually be in it must be wonderful : ) Richard O'Brien's exit through the roof of the theatre was a fitting end for the character, a character I wish we could have seen more of in the show.

Whether it was becuase Act 1 had more of the known songs or whether it was just the way the story went I felt Act 2 lacked a narractive, solid direction and flow of scenes. The focus of the story didn't seem to come through with the first section, a lengthy section in Vulgaria, slowing down the story and then the child catching scene and the scene in the castle with Caractacus and Truly as dolls being shortened too much. The latter scene seemed to be over before it had begun where as I had been expecting something more on the lines of the film for that sequence on film is very theatrical.

Music , with the exception of the three new songs (I think it was three), which were not very memorable and the child catcher's songs is just a 'nothing' sort of song really, was excellent. Arrangements, singing etc... could not be faulted although at times the sound balance bewteen orchestra and singers was off.

I had already seen a clip of the Me Ol Bamboo sequence and that was an excellent routine but for the Toot Sweets and the Bomba Samba I felt there was some element of excitement missing. Comparing to the first time I saw 'Be My Guest' from Beauty and the Beast where that number left you on a high I found the endings didn't have a punch and I felt the SAmba sequence was too long.

Depsite how it may appear I did really enjoy the show and would see it again, it is just in coomparison to other shows aimed at the same type of audience such as Lion King and Beauty and the Beast I felt it just wasn't magical enough.

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