Chitty, the car, delights UK theatregoers

~ The Times India - 17/04/02 by Rashmee Z Ahmed ~

LONDON: Everyone knows the music, many have seen the film, but when the world's most famous flying car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soared into the skies over London's theatreland as a brand new musical, it made history. And a lot of money.
Chitty , which has already become the most expensive musical ever, with 6.2 million pounds spent on the props, leads the way for Andrew Lloyd Webber's joint venture with A R Rahman, Bombay Dreams .
That homage to Hindi filmdom opens in June and is part of a crucial threesome, including Chitty and Robert de Niro's forthcoming London production We Will Rock You . All three new musicals are expected to kick-start the revival of the prestigious and profitable London West End, whose only other competitor is New York's Broadway.
Critics are uncharacteristically tongue-tied about the stage debut of the car that starred in a children's tale written by Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.
Chitty , the ridiculously lovable car with wings, is said to be a suitable vehicle for theatreland's beckoning summer of hope. Ticket sales, after the initial run of just one day, are already closing in on the 10 million pound mark.
 The team that took the original Chitty to the status of a worldwide movie classic came back to help convert film into stage musical.
With a little help from 007. The current James Bond, Pierce Brosnan and his new onscreen squeeze, Oscar-winning Halle Berry, loyally attended the stage launch of Fleming's most famous non-Bond venture.
Other special effects included Chitty , the 21-foot car herself, who is manifestly the real thing and really does fly over the delighted audience. She cost 750,000 pounds and a lot of hydraulics to build but is now thought to be well worth the money.
The hype over Chitty has underlined theatreland's high hopes for this musical and Bombay Dreams as the perfect tonic for a healthy bank balance.
Stage pundits said the charm of Chitty onstage lies in its familiarity from the film version, while Bombay Dreams 's appeal will chiefly be its strangeness for a white, Western, theatre-going audience.
Both musicals, and de Niro's production about the life of rock group Queen, are expected to fill the gap left by the closure of long-running hit shows, such as Starlight Express and Cats .
Clearly the year onstage will be remembered chiefly for one funny flying oddball and Hindi music with a British accent.
 Meanwhile, Hollywood's A list, including Madonna, Gywneth Paltrow and Matt Damon, are to perform on the London stage as well, bringing Rahman and Mumbai into a rare summer of a thousand popping flashbulbs

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