Chitty First Night Goes With A Bang

~ Theatre Now - 17/04/02 by Paul Webb ~

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's first night at the Palladium yesterday was as starry as you would expect of a West End opening, but with more than the usual number of limousines and minders outside in Argyll Street - not to mention banks of press photographers keen to snap the assorted celebrities as they left, beaming, after the curtain call.

The curtain call itself had been one of the longest and liveliest in recent memory, with a richly deserved call for the car (the real star of the show) and with several of the lead actors from the 1960s film version being called on to the stage by Michael Ball.

The audience seemed determined to enjoy the show and from the moment the Chitty theme song was heard during the overture - and greeted with cheers and applause - it was clear that the show would be a hit.

Pre-publicity had concentrated on the high cost of the production (as well as the size of its advance - some £8 million) but the result was clearly worth it as this was a lavishly costumed and designed musical whose centrepiece was a car that really does appear to fly, off the stage and over the orchestra and first few rows of the stalls.

This is an extraordinary piece of stagecraft from designer Anthony Ward, and the audience almost literally went wild. As they poured out of the Palladium and into the flashbulbs, even the most world-weary theatregoers had a smile on their face - as did Adrian Noble who, whatever his troubles at the RSC, can now bank on a success with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.


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