Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Reviewer's Rating

‘Oh, there never was a car, there never was a car like this great car’.

Only rarely have so many rhapsodised quite so eloquently on stage at what is, after all, a part of the set. Still, in the magical Edwardian land of Ian Fleming’s pre-World War 1 England (1909) anything can happen, and does.

Published posthumously three months after Fleming’s death in 1964, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang was an almost instant hit. So much so that the producers responsible for his James Bond franchise employed the author Roald Dahl to fashion a script that could be filmed, and it was this script, with songs by Robert and Richard Sherman, and loosely based on Fleming’s story, that became the 1968 musical film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Fast forward another thirty years, and Jeremy Sams adapts the film for the stage, the Sherman Brothers adding to their original twelve songs, and in 2002 The London Palladium has a hit on its hands that runs until 2005, then there’s Broadway, the world, and whole host of touring productions.

THIS production… although based on the Sams 2002 production (as reworked by Ray Roderick) opened in 2024 at The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, directed by master of making a little go a long way, Thom Southerland.

Several changes have been made – for example Truly Scrumptious is now a motorcycle-riding go-getter, instead of a pristine Edwardian Lady – but they’re harmless enough and the plot is still essentially the same.

Likeable inventor Caractacus Potts (Adam Garcia), fashions a new car from the wreck of another, along the way crossing the path of modern woman Truly Scrumtious (a rather wonderful Ellie Nunn). Potts’ children Jeremy and Jemima (two extremely talented young actors with a great future ahead of them, Roshan Thomson, and Isla Ithier) fall for Truly as the mother they no longer have, and the partner their father needs.

News of this wonderful car gets to Baron Bomburst (a very funny Martin Callaghan) who sends his spies Boris and Goran (Adam Stafford and Michael Joseph who are easily the highlight of the show) to steal it and take it back to Vulgaria. However, the two are unable to get the actual car, but manage to seize Caractacus Potts instead (Liam Fox, not one of nature’s natural singers), not realising until too late that they have the inventor’s father who shares his name.

Anyway, they all head off to Vulgaria to get him back, and needless to say Chitty saves the day to the delight of everyone, and along the way we get a whole load of recognisable standards including ‘Toot Sweets’, ‘Hushabye Mountain’, ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’, ‘Posh’, and the title song amongst a whole raft of others.

So, is it any good? Well, all that I can say is that I and my guest had a wonderful time, and ended up standing singing along. And I think that’s the show’s real secret. You go in knowing the musical numbers. Indeed, the songs that have been added to make it a full evening’s entertainment aren’t really – say this very quietly – as good as the originals, and one of them, Act Two’s ‘Bombie Bamba’ sticks out as being just filler that you could excise and lose nothing at all.

Still, minor quibbles. ‘The car’s the star’, as they used to say on TV, and that remains the case here.

‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we love you!’


Venue: New Wimbledon Theatre

Book: Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick after Ian Fleming and Roald Dahl

Music & Lyrics: Richard & Robert Sherman

Starring: Adam Garcia, Liam Fox, Charlie Brooks, Ellie Nunn, Martin Callaghan, Jenny Gayner, Adam Stafford, Michael Joseph, John Maculey and full supporting company

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes including 1 x 20 minute interval

Date Seen: Tuesday 19th May 2024

Review by: Richard Voyce