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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Nottingham Operatic Society Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson

In celebrating their 130th year Nottingham Operatic Society show no sign of stopping with a magical production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which will delight audiences of all ages at Nottingham's Theatre Royal.

The musical is based on Ian Fleming's novel and the subsequent musical film adaption which contains a beloved soundtrack by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman and first premiered on stage at the London Palladium in 2002. It follows inventor Caractacus Potts and his children Jeremy and Jemima who live at home with their rather eccentric Grandpa Potts.

It also follows the Paragon Panther racing car which sits in a scrapyard after crashing on its final race. The once-great car has become a playpiece for the Potts children. Needing 30 bob to purchase the car Caractacus uses his inventions including his discovered by accident 'Toot Sweets' and his mobile hair-cutting machine to raise the money. Once the money is raised Caractacus sets about restoring the car attracting the sights of the Vulgarians who know the magic powers inside the car. This sets the course for a wonderful adventure involving spies, a child forbidden land and a terrifying Childcatcher.

It's a hugely ambitious production for the Operatic Society to take on, not only does it require a large adult ensemble but also two sets of children for an ensemble as well as the leading roles of Jeremy and Jemima. An alternating set of casts perform the show with many of the leading roles alternating at performances. For this review, I saw the yellow team.

The production is superbly steered by director Andrew Miller, his vision and direction allow for the larger-than-life characters and fantastical story to pull equal focus. Sets have been provided by Scenic Projects and set the scene perfectly with large painted backdrops and atmospheric lighting design. The period costumes supplied by Charades Theatrical Costume Hire further impress in terms of the visual elements of the show.

The choreography by Justine Lee shows off the natural talents of the ensemble, the clean precise moment is performed well by the company. Large ensemble dance numbers such as 'Toot Sweets' or 'Me Ol' Bamboo' are excellently staged by Lee allowing for all on stage to shine. 

With that beloved score from the movie and songs that were added for the stage production, it's no easy score for an orchestra but musical director Gareth Wynne is an expert and steers the impressive 12-piece orchestra with great skill making the music sound great. 

Leading the yellow team is
Mark Coffey-Bainbridge as Caractacus Potts, who is charming and a warm key central presence. Coffey-Bainbridge interacts and leads the company magnificently. In a couple of moments where the kids stumbled a line, he re-steered the ship and kept their confidence high. His vocals, acting and dancing skills show that he is a triple threat.

Coffey-Bainbridge forms a great relationship with the loveable Louise Grantham as Truly Scrumptious. Grantham is all sweetness and purity and positively glows throughout. Her delightful vocals sound great and her poise and precise movement during 'Doll On A Music Box' shows great class.

Freddie Vokes and Daisy Hamilton as Jeremy and Jemima, respectively, are charming in instantly having the audience on their side and you root for them throughout. This carries through the entire performance and gives a great emotional payoff at the end.

Shaun Hanrahan has a great time as Grandpa Potts, capturing the madcap side well whilst also being charming and fun to watch. He leads my own personal favourite number in the show 'The Roses Of Success' with 6 of the male ensemble who excellently ham it up as aged Inventors with strong vocals and acting skills.

The piece is full of colourful characters and Nathan Curzon as Boris and Linda Croston as Goran take a lot of the limelight in terms of memorable turns. The comedic spies add light and humour as they make a formidable pairing bouncing off each other with ease. Their number 'Act English' is delivered with wicked comedic timing.

Another great duo comes from Simon Theobald as The Baron Bomburst and his wife Kate Williams as The Baroness. Theobald and Williams both relish every moment in the spotlight. Together they have real fun in 'Chu-Chi Face' before 'The Bombie Samba which is sung and danced brilliantly. 

On the flip side to the comedic villains you have the darker more unsettling Childcatcher played by James Ellison. Looming in all-black he glides around with such a menace that will easily unsettle the younger children in the audience.

Of course, the true star of the production is the car itself, and the audible gasps of joy and the round of applause as Chitty is revealed is a really special moment. The stage effects to pull off the floating elements using dry ice is clever whilst the flying sequences have the audience transfixed. The children next to me simply couldn't believe what they were seeing.

That feeling of magic is the real takeaway from this production. The joy of sharing in a story that is loved by the older ones whilst taking the younger ones on a whirlwind of theatrical wonderment. You can't help but leave a piece like this feeling enriched by the power of storytelling and great music. 

The ambition, the talent and the delivery of this production are first-rate. The 'Teamwork' of all involved has made for a complete treat of a show to watch. One not to miss.


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang continues at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 28th October. Limited tickets remain available from

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