Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flying high at Devonshire Park Theatre
Truly scrumptious? It's truly, truly stunning. The Devonshire Park Theatre this week overflows with dazzling colour, vibrant song and dance, and loveable comedy. The Rattonians' Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has trundled into town.
The disclaimers may label this as an “amateur production”, but the Adams family – Mark, Mel, Debbie and Alex – have put together a show that shines with professionalism in every respect.
The show, like the car itself, gleams splendidly from every angle. The magnificent vehicle – which gets its own round from the audience on first appearing – is the focus of a crazy plot and madcap adventures. The technical demands are enormous, but they are triumphantly overcome, and the breathtaking Finale Act One is worthy of a West End production.
The two children at its heart, Jemima and Jeremy, are astonishingly well played. Beautiful voices with immaculate timing, full of an irresistible sense of glee. Twelve year old Daisy Riddett has toured the show nationally, and her confidence shines through. Caleb Pout, at a mere nine, is not faintly overshadowed, and the pair interact perfectly with their endearing inventor dad Caractacus Potts – Damon Willer on top form as always, with the lovely mix of eccentricity and sincerity which the role demands.
Widower Caractacus, of course, has a vacancy, and Chloe Shearer fills it beautifully as Truly Scrumptious, with lovely acting and thrilling vocals. Michael Elliott’s Toymaker and Mark Adams as Grandpa Potts each bring affectionate warmth to their parts. Oh, and a quick mention for Chris Brenchley’s flawless broad Norfolk as Bernard Matthews.
In a decent children’s story, the grown-ups are always a bit larger than life and Melanie Adams and James Bell seize the wonderful caricatured roles of Baron and Baroness Bomburst. Lavishly overdressed and playing relentlessly off each other, they are an absolute blast.
And never knowingly underplayed, Matt Wentworth and Steve Clarke have us in stitches, spying with ludicrous incompetence for the Kingdom of Vulgaria.
Teamwork, of course, is the watchword. Carl Greenwood’s expert baton, and Jan Lynton and Claire Walker’s stylish dance direction, have created excellent performances. The kids’ chorus shines with eagerness. From some brilliant brass playing deep in the pit, to the faithful follow-spot operators high in the gallery, everyone is spot-on.
But this bright, colourful and happy story has another, darker side. Seen just fleetingly in the opening number and ominously mentioned in the dialogue, the Child Catcher lurks. Vulgaria’s unfortunate nippers are whisked off by Grant Martins’ sinister kidnapper to lead a feral life in the sewers.
Cue hero Caractacus Potts. Needless to say, the baddies are roundly beaten and everyone is brimmingly happy again. Frankly, you could not be anything but brimmingly happy. A marvellous show.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang performance run until Sunday July 29, booking at 01323 412000 or eastbournetheatres.co.uk.