Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sunderland Empire
WHILE Monday night’s audience could perhaps have done with being cranked up a gear, the cast of this musical favourite hardly drew breath for over two and a half adrenaline-fuelled hours.
But, thanks to Matt Baker – as Caractacus Potts – and company, the audience were clapping and cheering by the end.
The Easington-born former Blue Peter presenter and the children – largely picked from the area – added a local flavour to a show which runs to a slick, professional formula.
And it’s pretty near faultless, in terms of performances, costumes and imaginative sets, with one beautiful dreamlike scene – including flying children – morphing into an eerie fairground peopled by rather disturbing fantasy figures and stilt-walkers.
Owing more obviously to the famous 1968 film than the original children’s story by Ian Fleming, it’s a show with everything: acrobatics, fireworks – even a few dogs – plus sing-along songs and energetic chorus numbers, including Me Ol’ Bamboo.
But the star of the show has to be the flying car.
How this piece of technical wizardry got past the health and safety experts is anyone’s guess. I certainly wouldn’t like to be inside when it tilts almost vertically over the stage.
The chilling child-catcher – a posturing, spider-like performance from Wayne Sleep – was pretty scary too.
Thank goodness then for the genial Matt Baker who adds just the right feel-good touch to the show, alongside grandpa Potts (ex-Crossroads actor Tony Adams) and humour from the Baron’s inept henchmen who plot to steal the car.
We’re swept from the inventor’s quirky home to the mad red and black Vulgarian court of the child-hating Baroness and toy-loving Baron – with Caractacus and Truly Scrumptious great as pretend dolls – and from the sewers full of hiding children to the soaring skies.
It’s spectacular stuff.
Never mind the children in the audience, we adults loved it.