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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

When Jason Manford's down-at-heel inventor Caractacus Potts rebuilds a rusted old banger in this new touring revival of Jeremy Sams' stage adaptation of the Roald Dahl scripted 1968 musical film, he gets a lot more than he bargained for with the flying machine that results from his tampering.

Inspired by Ian Fleming's short story awash with a trademark Bondesque array of customised cars, cartoon villains and exotic locales, the film's Bank holiday friendly songbook by Richard and Robert Sherman remains intact. James Brining's co-production between West Yorkshire Playhouse and former Festival Theatre boss John Stalker's Music and Lyrics company uses all the resources at his disposal to hone a facility for musical theatre developed while running Dundee Rep.

With Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's adventures on land, sea and air brought to life by a mix of hi-tech back projections and old-school engineering, Manford helms the show as nice guy Potts opposite Charlotte Wakefield's Truly Scrumptious. This allows Phill Jupitus considerable leeway to ham it up as Baron Bomburst alongside Claire Sweeney as his Baroness.

In the spirit of the teamwork the show advocates, the supporting cast have the most fun. Sam Harrison and Scott Paige have a ball as Bulgarian buffoons Boris and Goran, and Jos Vantyler's Childcatcher is a malevolent Goth sprite. On opening night, Hayden Goldberg and Caitlin Surtees are one of three teams of child actors playing the Potts offspring.

But it is the full-on ensemble scenes that count, be it the mockney morris dancing display, the Sweeney-led samba extravaganza or the music box magic that liberates an entire nation in a tale designed to unleash the collective child within.

The Herald, October 10th 2016

ends

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