Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (2023)

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WJ Quinn 17. maj 2023 4 min read

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (1)

"... there is still the makings of something special here. May it emerge before the race ends this Saturday." Southern Light attempts a bold staging of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

📍Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
📅Wednesday 17 to Saturday 20 May 2023
🕖Evenings, 19.30 & 20.00 | Matinee, 14.30
🕖Runningtime:About. 2 hours and 30 minutes (with an interval)
🎼 Music and lyrics:Richard M. Sherman&Robert B. Sherman
🖊️ Scene adaptation:Jeremy Sams
✏️ Licensed Customization:Ray Roderick
🩰 Director and staging:Quintin Young
🛠️ Musical director:Tommie Travers
💡 Choreography & assistant director:Louise Williamson
🪡 Assistant Musical Director:Maddy Baron
🎂 Parents' discretion
🎭 Wheelchair Accessible Venue, Wheelchair Accessible Toilets, Audio Induction Loop

The classic children's film 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' from 1968 is objectively not a very good film. It's far too long, the narrative is all over the place, and the central romance is strangely cloaked in classist snobbery. Yet in my mind I see a worn VHS tape, the handwritten label, and feel the warm glow of many happy days spent watching and re-watching that film with my grandfather. No doubt many of the longer toothed ones in the stalls toosouthern light’s latest production ofJeremy Sams&Ray Roderickstage adaptation, comes accompanied by similar heritage. So does it, could it ever, live up to such nostalgia-driven expectations?

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (2)
Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (3)

The answer is sort of.Samscertainly fixes the plot to remove the strange disconnect between the film's 'Little House in rural England' beginning and the fantastic second act. These 'I can't believe we're not Bavarian' vulgarities are not made upCaractacus Pott's (Rory MacLean) storytelling fantasy, but living, breathing, bumbling antagonists. They want the remains of the fastest race car ever built, currently rusting away in a junkyard and the widow's toyPottstwo childrenJemima(Martha Broderick) andJeremy(Oliver Thomson).

(Video) Tom in Edinburgh presents: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - part 1

The first act nibbles quite pleasantly, jumps alongSherman'sfamiliar score, with a few additions such as the collective anthem 'Teamwork'.Rory MacLeanget seriousCaractacus, hits the right notes while tripping a moderately easy-awesome. Love interest and daughter of a wealthy sweet factory owner,Really delicious(Ask Williamson) isn't offered much more agency than its celluloid counterpart, but still impresses with vocal sweetness and power.

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (4)

Production-wise, the piglets creep in early and develop into full-blown symptoms in the second act. Despite a mic-ready lead, there's a constant struggle for clarity, especially during – but not limited to – speech. For audiences unfamiliar with the basic story, there is a real risk that the experience could devolve into a sequence of inexplicable scenes. Which is a shame because the ensemble of Southern Light pulls out all the stops to entertain. This is very much a 'more is more' production in the hands ofQuintin Young.

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (5)

An all-singing-all-dancing turnLord Scrumptious'(John Bruce) sweetie factory pitching some musical delights is one of several stage-filling pleasures.Peter Tomassi recently saw the chauvinist in EMT's '9 to 5: The Musical',also continues to prove his theatrical MVP status as a phenomenal clown spyGoranopposite straight-ish manBoris (Padraic Hamrogue).

Junk racing car promptly resurrected in the all-flying, all-floating Chitty Chitty Bang Bang of Potts, the second act of which repairs fictional Vulgaria. Key wordsThe child catcher(Charles Leeson-Payne), sinisterly patrols a kingdom where children are forbidden by decree of ruling cretinsBaron Bomburst(Gary Gray) andBaronesse Bomburst(Cathy Geddie). Again, not a single member of the huge cast leaves anything in the dressing room, and there's plenty more melodic fun to be had. One could wish for dancers who can also sing, but there is no lack of ambition in this amateur business.

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (6)

Of course we have to talk about the titular car, which actually floats and flies – high up and into the auditorium of the Festival Theatre. It's a prop no less impressive than the one that graced the musical's West End premiere many years ago. The one-of-a-kind piece of stage magic is joined by a few other impressively reproduced props from Potts' bicycle-powered clipper to his breakfast machine. But there is a stark lack of props when Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is loaded up and on the go. This means an enormous amount of telling, rather than showing, left to the car's occupants, as well as an expanse of blank stage. Lack of sound effects also inexplicably leaves the car behind.

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (7)

Structurally, the play's second act also undergoes a bit of a breakdown, with detours to a pointless Samba spectacular, before a fortuitously successful revolution ushers in the happy ending. But there is still time for this production's undeniable highlight whenMacLeanandWilliamsonconspire to recreate the Music Box Dance scene. This is where their obvious investment in props and setting really creates their own loving version of the film's most artistically successful moment.

The orchestra led byTommie Traversit must also be said, is an unrelenting joy throughout. Some fine ensemble playing brings the iconic score to life and challenges the theatergoer not to dance and sing along. When sound design and orchestra find balance, the results are simply astonishing. Although Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is not a total success, there is still something special here. May it appear before the race ends this Saturday.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang plays from the Festival Theatre, EdinburghWednesday 17 to Saturday 20 May 2023.It is a Southern Light production.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang plays from the Festival Theatre, EdinburghWednesday 17 to Saturday 20 May 2023. For tickets and more information, click here.

For more on Southern Light's continued work, click here.

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  1. Hello,

    I think you missed the mark with this review. I think if you don't like the movie or the stage show then you shouldn't have bothered to go let alone choose to give 2.5 stars because of it. The staging was spectacular along with the car, the lighting and everyone in the show. and I think the way to get on a show is to prove you can sing, so I think everyone on the show was an excellent singer. So you could say you could wish for a reviewer who is not completely biased.


    (Video) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang


    1. 2.5 stars is not a bad review. Here are my criteria:

      ⭐️⭐️ – 2 stars

      Two stars is a passing grade.

      A show with two stars is a respectable undertaking and a credit to those involved.

      If the show sounds interesting, the reviewer's reader should consider buying a ticket. It might be right up their street.

      ⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 3 stars

      Three stars mean a good show. Not an OK show, not a so-so show, but an actively good production.

      If the performance sounds interesting, the review reader should seriously consider buying a ticket. It's probably right up their street.

      Very glad you enjoyed the show and no I don't like the movie I love it a lot. 🙏


      (Video) Performers Greatest Hits


  2. I absolutely loved this production with all its faults and hiccups. One of the best things I've seen on stage (Kapital & ATG member). 4.5 stars!



    1. Glad to hear it!



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How long is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang play? ›

Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 20 minute interval.

What is the rating for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? ›

Where was the village scene filmed in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? ›

Filming locations
Location in filmLocation of filming
White rock spires in the ocean and lighthouse when Chitty first fliesThe Needles stacks and lighthouse on the Isle of Wight, England
Baron Bomburst's castle (exterior)Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
Vulgarian villageRothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany
9 more rows

How many Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs were made? ›

The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Car

In total there were 6 cars made but only one of them was drivable. The majority of the other cars were incomplete and used mainly for stunts. The only operational car is sporting a surprising 3L V6 engine and also the famous number plate of "GEN 11".


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