Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Birmingham Hippodrome

By Julie Wallis

Truly Scrumptious

Childhood favourite Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 18th September and seeing it as a live performance is something special.

I’m pretty certain a lot of children will have some great memories of a wonderful childhood if they are lucky enough to see this. Although if you don’t have children to take don’t worry, there were plenty of adults last night recapturing their youth too, myself included.

'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' Tour
Aaron Gelkoff, Daisy Riddet, Lee Mead, Carrie Hope Fletcher. Photography by Alastair Muir

With a star studded cast Lee Mead plays Caractacus Pott, he has a wonderful singing voice and does not disappoint with his renditions of Hushabye Mountain, Me Ol’ Bamboo and of course Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Phil Jupitus as both Baron Bomburst and Lord Scrumptious with Claire Sweeney as Baroness Bomburst and Miss Phillips.

Phil Jupitus and Claire Sweeney have a great chemistry and work so well together, they both really bring the Baron and his wife to life. Mr Jupitus is a very funny stand up comedian, I had not appreciated  just what a good actor he is too. He captures the childlike qualities of the Baron perfectly. I have heard Mr Jupitus tell a story of his lack of dance ability so must admit I was a little distracted and only watched him in the dance routine but he didn’t miss a step. Claire Sweeney seemed to love being the Baroness, she plays the part perfectly with just a little bit of sinister villain and a lot of comedy.

'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' Tour
Matt Gillett as the Childcatcher. Photography by Alastair Muir

Matt Gillett as the Child Catcher, for me, is probably the most important character to cast right, he has to be scary, threatening and move in the creepy Child Catcher way. Matt was wonderfully scary and did move with a creepy elegance  that only a true Child Catcher can!

I could go on and on listing actors and characters, so I will keep it short and say Truly Scrumptious  (Carrier Hope  Fletcher) has a truly lovely singing voice, grandpa Potts (Andy Hockley) gives a performance that Lionel Jeffries would be proud of and the incompetent spies Boris (Sam Harrison) and Goran (Scott Paige) get the most laughs with their fantastic rendition.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Tour
Sam Harrison as Boris and Scott Paige as Goran. Photography by Alastair Muir

The opening scene is a projector image of Chitty winning her races which is played on the front of the Potts family windmill, further use of film to recreate moving countryside whilst Chitty winds and turns is all very clever and when Chitty begins to fly the magic is clear to see. This show has a lot of fantastic effects. If you’re a fan of the film (isn’t everybody?) this stage play does capture all the magic right before your eyes.

The second half is a treat, I really liked the first half but I loved the second half. With a running time of two and a half hours (including the interval) this is a long show. It’s worth bearing this in mind as as lovely as it is I think it probably is too long for the very young, tickets state no one under 3. This is incredibly family friendly and a fantastic first theatre experience no matter what age you are. Chitty Chitty  Bang Bang really is the “most fantasmagorical musical entertainment  in the history of everything” according to the blurb from the 1967 movie, I think this quote still fits the live performance perfectly.

'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' Tour
Lee Mead and Carrie Hope Fletcher. Photography by Alastair Muir

Birmingham Hippodrome is a fabulous venue, with a plush, modern interior with loads of glass and chrome, I was enjoying drinks in the bar and looked up to see acres of glass balconies, an impressive sight but I did feel a tiny pang of sympathy for the cleaners! The wonderfully hospitable staff made me feel very welcome and I thought they looked very smart in their red shirts.

With plenty of space to enjoy my drinks, and lifts to save your legs if you do so need the Hippodrome is a great theatre situated less than ten minutes walk from New Street station and surrounded by a great choice of restaurants and bars.

Tickets are available on the Birmingham Hippodrome website here:

Julie was invited to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for BrumHour thanks to Birmingham Hippodrome in exchange for this review and as she behaved they might let her back.