Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Yorkshire Playhouse

The cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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In the immortal words of Paul Young (and One Direction in the appalling updated version) it’s Christmas Time and there’s no need to be afraid. Unless you’re in the Playhouse. Then you need to be very afraid that the Child Catcher might be lurking around a shadowy corner.

The Child Catcher is just one of the classic elements brought to vivid life in the new production of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Stephen Matthews as the Child Catcher.

Stephen Matthews as the Child Catcher.

It’s a big deal that this is being created in Leeds. There hasn’t been a new production of this musical for some time - the estate of Fleming are fiercely protective of their property. When this show travels the country, which it is already guaranteed to do for at least 18 months, it will take the badge of having been made in Leeds with it.

Is it something of which we can be proud when it does so?

Yes.

Director James Brining has created a piece of work that flips between epic and intimate with slickness and storytelling of great clarity. It is a highly efficient piece of work.

This is absolutely, categorically, a family show. The primary colours and broad brush performances will appeal to children, the vast number of whom in the Quarry Theatre on the night I attended were held rapt by the on-stage action.

The Ian Fleming story tells of an ancient car brought lovingly back to life by Caractacus Potts at the pleading of his children Jeremy and Jemima, played on the night I saw the show by Henry Kent and Caitlin Surtees.

While the efficiency of the production is the reason it whips along at quite the pace, it is the choreographer in the musical moments that brings real magic. Stephen Mear is the much-lauded man behind the dancing and it’s easy to see why he is considered so brilliant. His work, particularly on stand out numbers Me Ol’ Bamboo, Toot Sweets and The Bombie Samba, is stunning.

Children will love it for its energy and vibrancy and almost all adults will enjoy a wave of nostalgia, transported back to their childhoods courtesy of a flying car.

Nick Ahad

To Jan 30.

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