After the tremendous success of last year’s Priscilla Queen of the Desert, BBLOC have returned this year to delight both young and old, with family favourite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This musical masterpiece takes its audience on a ‘fantasmagorical’ adventure when the eccentric Caractacus Potts is asked by his adorable children, Jeremy and Jemima, to save an old race car from the scrap heap – a race car which they later discover possesses magical powers!
BBLOC are well-known for delivering performances of high standards, and this year was no exception. During a very well deserved standing ovation, the lady next to me commented “absolutely magnificent!” I have to agree – I personally wanted to join the cast onstage! Every single performer, principal or ensemble, young or old, canine or human, looked like they were having the time of their lives. In the words of the cast – “it’s more than spectacular, to use the vernacular!”
In the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke, Rob Dorey excelled as the loveable inventor Caractacus Potts. A highlight was his captivating rendition of ‘Hushabye Mountain’ where his dulcet tones combined with the precision dancing of the cast to create a truly enchanting scene. ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ was also well-received where Rob and the cast got the chance to show off their impressive dancing skills! Sally Wheeler delivers an equally strong performance as Truly Scrumptious. With an angelic voice, Sally delivers her lines with precision comic timing and is truly a jewel in BBLOC’s crown.
Similarly, Phillip Fry as Grandpa Potts is outstanding in his musical numbers ‘Posh!’ and ‘The Roses of Success,’ supported by an enthusiastic and memorable ensemble of mad scientists in the latter. Meanwhile, Sean Hardy as the iconic, nefarious villain, The Child Catcher is so compelling with a spine-chilling voice and unnerving grace, his interpretation is daresay one of the best I have seen. Whilst he is booed in the bows, a round of applause is equally well deserved.
Under the exceptional direction of Helen Barrington, the family dynamic between the Potts family was very believable throughout the show. The roles of Jeremy Potts and Jemima Potts are doubled. On my night, Jacob Skipper and Sofia Onorato characterised the cheeky children tremendously well, offering performances worthy of a West End stage. Watch out London – there are stars in our midst! I am confident the same could be said of the alternative Jeremy and Jemima, Connor Wheeler and Millie Bagnall.
Part of what makes Chitty Chitty Bang Bang so loved is Ian Fleming’s sense of humour and his troupe of comic characters. Adam Myers and Emma Wogan in the roles of Baron and Baroness Bomburst are delightfully enjoyable and steal every scene they appear in. The irony of the Baroness’s dislike of children whilst simultaneously courting a husband more juvenile than the average six year old is not lost. Likewise Matthew Traher as the haphazard Boris and Darren Ellery as the erratic Goran make the audience roar with laughter during their song ‘Act English,’ in which the preceding one-liners are perhaps the most memorable of the entire show.
The cast are supported by an impressive set and experienced creative team. Director Helen Barrington and choreographer Carly Simmerling work together to elicit the best from their actors; the remarkable talents of the dancers were showcased in ‘Bombie Samba’ whilst the first rendition of the title song was well constructed with cameos from the suffragettes, a tandem bicycle and a running club combining to create the illusion of a moving car. Though driving is not all this special car does! The lighting is exceptional during the nautical chase sequence and the act two finale, establishing iconic and unforgettable images. Meanwhile, musical director Ian Peters has drawn excellent harmonies from his cast and conducts a very professional orchestra, which takes this show from good to exceptional.
BBLOC may be an amateur company but they continuously deliver performances worthy of the West End stage. I daresay this flying car may even give the appeal of the air-show a run for its money! So join BBLOC this week for a phenomenal, feel-good performance and ‘spend a happy time’ with their ‘fine four fendered friend.’ You won’t regret it!
Performances at 14:30 and 19:30 every day, Wednesday 29th August – Sunday 2nd September. Ticket prices, £17.50 – £22.50.