It’s 50 years since the fantastical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang first thrilled cinema-goers.
Based on James Bond author Ian Fleming’s children’s book, it has held generations of youngsters rapt, becoming a true classic.
And now CCADS is staging an ambitious production to mark the anniversary. With a cast of more than 50 children, 40 adults, eight dogs, a full orchestra and, of course, a flying car, it promises to be spectacular.
John-Paul McCrohon, who directs and stars as Caractacus Potts, says: ‘It’s a show I’ve always wanted to do. I saw it at the London Palladium in 2002 with Michael Ball, Brian Blessed et al, and it’s always been on the wishlist.
‘The licence holders actually contacted us and invited to do the show. There’s only 15 companies doing the show this year for the 50th anniversary of the film, and we were given first refusal in this area, which is fantastic – it’s one we jumped at.’
As an unexpected bonus, CCADS ended up heavily involved in the launch of a new exhibition at Beaulieu’s National Motor Museum to mark the film’s golden anniversary.
They had initially contacted the museum to ask about the possibility of doing some publicity shots around the car they have their as part of the permanent exhibition.
‘It was one of those wonderful things where the fates aligned and they said funny you should say that… It was lovely to tie-up with what they were doing and it made it even more special.
‘It was absolutely brilliant, the exhibition itself is superb. They’ve got one of the Chitty cars which was used in the film, and a replica which they drive around the grounds.
‘In addition to that they’ve got Truly’s car, they’ve got Grandpa Potts’ Hut, they’ve got original costumes, and the Child Catcher’s wagon, which has been shipped over from a museum in Germany, a first edition of the book and all sorts.
‘We were a big part of the launch day. They had the opening with Lord Montagu and Adrian Hall who played Jeremy in the movie, we sang a medley from the show and had about 25 of the 50 kids who are in the cast, plus several of the adult principal cast.
‘And we also got to perform on BBC Breakfast news in front of 6m people, it was a really memorable day.’
John-Paul is acutely aware of the place the film holds in people’s affections when putting it on as a show.
‘It’s one of those films, ever since we’ve announced we’re going to do it, it’s so much part of of people’s consciousness – they remember the iconic images, the songs, the Child Catcher - there are people who watched it as kids who are still scared of him.
‘It’s like Mary Poppins or The Wizard of Oz, they’re part of you – you watch it as a child and it never really leaves you. As we’ve been promoting it, we’ve been experiencing a lot of love for the piece.’
But even with all that in mind, John-Paul is confident that they will do it justice: ‘I loved the film, but if anything, I think the show enhances that.
‘There’s something special about seeing the car fly live in front of you in a theatre, and all of those things you’re familiar with from the movie happening for real in front of you.
‘It’s very funny, it’s one of those shows you can bring absolutely everyone to, there’s something for every age.
‘It’s a large-scale show. But at the same time you’ve got all of that, which I think will be breathtaking, it’s got real heart too. It’s got a lovely story running through it.
‘You feel like you’re walking on air when you leave the rehearsals, it’s been joyous. If we can get that feeling in the theatre, then I think people are going to find that it really is something.’
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG
The Kings Theatre, Southsea