Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Spot On Productions    The Point, Eastleigh Anne Waggott  22 November  2023

Confession time… One of my favourite musical films growing up was the iconic family favourite, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the story of oddball inventor Caractacus Potts, his even more eccentric father, delightful two children and spirited love interest, Truly Scrumptious, as they enjoy outlandish escapades in a magical flying car, with a personality all its own. So I arrived at The Point for Spot On Productions’ version carrying a mixed bag of eager anticipation and nervous trepidation. Off the back of their outstandingly successful youth production of Frozen Jr, the adults in the company had a lot to live up to if they were to create another stunning show… Would they? Could they?!

Well, despite a few slightly grating gear changes and minor glitches on opening night, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” There is so much to enjoy in this amateur production – and is a fabulous way to whet the appetite for when the professional version arrives at The Mayflower next May!

Adam Rush commands the stage as a charmingly charismatic Caractacus, with a rich voice brimming with musicality, excellent dancing skills, and an authentic leading man, equally at home with the comedy of ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’, the poignancy of ‘Hushabye Mountain’, the natural warm rapport with the young Potts, and a delightfully engaging burgeoning relationship with Truly. Perhaps he could have pushed the eccentricities further, but that really is being picky! Rebecca Woodhead has the crystal-clear voice of an angel and is truly enchanting as Miss Scrumptious, while her performance as the music box doll is truly flawless.

As with Frozen, the leading child roles of Jemima and Jeremy Potts have been divided into two teams, Blue and Red, and (again as with Frozen) I have no doubts that the Red Team will be as magnificent as opening night’s Blue Team when it is their turn to perform. It’s one thing to be strong performers alongside your peers – to more than hold your own alongside seasoned adults is another story altogether! Both Esme Lang (Jemima) and Jacob Calder (Jeremy) have star quality already, captivating with their performances, brimming with confidence and aptitude for musical theatre and comedy, committed, and full of energy and enthusiasm. Their joy at being onstage is infectious, and they have obviously worked incredibly hard to bring such stellar performances to the stage again, just four weeks after the exquisite Frozen.

Comedy is a focal element of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s enduring charm – and Mark Ponsford is a master of musical comedy, channelling the spirit and persona of Lionel Jeffries as Grandpa Potts, whilst still making the role his own with deceptive ease. Josh McDonald (Boris) and Stuart Golding (Goran) are a brilliantly dynamic bumbling duo of Vulgarian spies, while Graham Barnes and Emily McSpirit threaten to steal the show as Baron and Baroness Bomburst, with a slight twist on the usual depictions which made for a thoroughly entertaining couple.

On the other hand, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is synonymous with the malicious Child Catcher, and John Abraham is wonderfully wicked, bringing just the right mix of terror, graceful catlike movement and villainous intent as he lures the children into his trap.

Of course, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would be incomplete without the celebrated flying car, and Scenery Solutions have provided the ideal vehicle to create the illusion of floating and flying within its storybook scenery. A wonderful array of costumes, scintillating choreography (performed by an excellent troupe of dancers with precision and panache), a musical score packed full of brilliant songs, and a fully committed ensemble of both adults and children, with many distinctive cameo characters on display, ensure that Spot On Productions have created another accomplished production for the Eastleigh audience to enjoy. A standing ovation on opening night bodes well for a very successful run! With a little service to smooth out the glitches, Spot On Productions thoroughly deserve it to be.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang continues at The Point, Eastleigh until Saturday 25 November at 7:30pm each evening (with a 2:30pm Saturday matinee).