Review: Chitty Chitty
Bang Bang

Blackpool Fylde Light Opera Company's production at Blackpool Grand Theatre, Tuesday 25 September

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The old adage to never work with children or animals was thrown out along with the notion that amateur productions are small-scale, cobbled-together operations, by Blackpool Fylde Light Opera Company with its latest production.

Marking its 50-year anniversary and with the company having been granted one of the few licenses to stage it, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flew into the Blackpool Grand Theatre on Tuesday night. In the first of an ambitious five-night run, BFLOC’s local marketing operation appeared to have paid off, with the theatre busier than it has been for some national touring productions.

The story follows the down-at-heel Potts family, headed by widower and inventor of wacky machines Caractacus (Andrew Tuton). When they meet the enchanting Truly Scrumptious their fortunes look set to change, but first they must evade the villainous Baron (Ian Fox) and Baroness Bomburst (Lynne Nolan), who have designs on their beloved family car and a disdain for children – personified in the creepy child catcher (Jack Evans).

An ensemble cast of local players and a slick chorus helped elevate the production above expectations for amateur musical theatre, with Amy Atkinson in the role of Truly Scrumptious standing out in both the acting and the vocal stakes. Her depiction of a mechanical doll, while balanced atop a small revolving platform, was particularly impressive.

But, apart from a few brief scenes where the cast’s dogs were inexplicably released onto the stage – inducing howls of laughter from the audience who were delighted to see tiny toy pups trotting between the legs of a Great Dane – it was the child actors who stole the show. Tiny tots held their own alongside teenagers in the chorus, but in the driving seat were 10-year-old Erin Greaves and 13-year-old Millie Lyon as siblings Jemima and Jeremy (played on alternate nights by Flo Maskery and Freddie Howson). During group songs such as Truly Scrumptious and the famous title number Greaves’s voice belied her stature and was audible over others. Lyon did a great job depicting a boy (bad wig notwithstanding), but this did highlight the sad lack of boys among the child cast members.

Costume and set design were of a professional standard, including Chitty itself, which remarkably transformed into a phantasmagorical flying machine before the audience’s eyes. There were one or two minor hiccups with some of the large-scale props fighting for space on stage, suggesting an extra technical rehearsal may have been useful, but the cast remained composed and professional, and lessons will no doubt have been learned for the remainder of the show’s run.

Although parts of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are undoubtedly timeless – a family overcoming adversity and a few good earworms played expertly by a live band – aspects such as the villainous subplot carried out by leaders of Vulgaria have dated less well and, as adaptations go, BFLOC’s is loyal to a fault. This musical adaptation does add a samba, showcasing the talents of one or two exceptional dancers but serving as an unnecessary addition for an already lengthy show. At two-and-a-half hours the film is no breeze, and this production was not far off that. Younger audience members who might have lagged in the second half, however, were vastly outnumbered by adults with nostalgia tickets, which this script relies on.

While my five year old nodded off as the clock crept towards 10pm, my seven year old – who sang along skilfully after a couple of introductory film viewings – was enthralled right up to the grand flying finale. And just as all good children’s theatre should inspire its audience, afterwards she told me: “I wish I was in that show.” The beauty of local productions like this is, of course, that next time around it is entirely possible.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is on until 29 September. Tickets at

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