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August 18 2019, Reviews The David Beach Competition

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

MATA

The Regal Theatre

Minehead

Saturday 17th August 2019

There are several ways to measure the success of any show with numerical scores: scores for direction, scores for acting, scores for musicality, scores for design but sometimes (and perhaps always) the most important measure is the reaction of the audience on the night. A standing ovation and a theatreful of happy punters should probably be all the reward a production needs. And if that was the measure then Saturday night’s MATA production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang certainly hit the heights.

In an endeavour never bounded by lack of ambition, the creative team; Director Kirsty Allen, Choreographer Laura Cook, Musical Director Joseph Buckler and Producer Chris Rendell certainly ‘went for it’ with this show: The sheer challenge for the technical team to deliver a spectacular car, never mind a flying car; a huge orchestra; wizardry to project animated windmill sails; costume for a cast of ‘thousands’ and the conversion of an enormous, spectacular Musical Theatre sensation into the space at the venerable Regal.

The end result, in the absence of the bottomless pockets of the professional West End and touring versions of the show, inevitably verged on pantomime. But this did not matter a jot to the hugely enthusiastic audience of friends, family and a good many holidaymakers who cheered and clapped throughout.

Singing throughout the show was very easy to listen to, tuneful and clear from all. I might have preferred a little more attack from the chorus on occasion but harmony and clarity were good. The orchestra, led by professional MD Joseph Buckler, having quickly overcome a few minor tuning issues during the overture, was cohesive and balanced. I noted a particularly impressive percussionist in Stan Talman who was kept very busy.

Performances from the cast were very watchable: Matt Legg as Caractacus Potts, Leah May Doolan as Truly Scrumptious and Peter Thompson as Grandpa Potts lead the ‘Goodies’ and Nigel McBrayne’s Baron Bomburst, Sallyann King’s Baroness Bomburst supported by ‘broker’s men’ Seb Davis as Boris and James Scott as Goran plus Paul Yates as Childchatcher comprising the ‘Baddies’. Most impressive for me however were the performances of nine-year-old Natalia Carey and ten-year-old Dexter Daley as the Potts children Jemimah and Jeremy. Their performances would have graced any professional stage – utter clarity, certainty, confidence and charm: superb. Never mind ‘stars of the future’ these two performed everyone else off the stage.

And then the car! Having been involved in many a ‘set-build’ in many a show I tip my hat to the team who delivered Chitty herself: A great job! She sprouted floats to escape the ‘vegetarians’ at sea and then produced two beautiful wings (well two, eventually) to rise up and fly. Really impressive.

Sitting in an audience who were being swept along with the show it would have been hard not to enjoy the evening at the Regal. Yes there were little details that jarred my critic’s eye a little: modern trousers, modern shoes, ill-fitting costumes and the whole ‘pantomime’ feel, but ‘so what’, the punters who had parted with their hard-earned to watch the show, loved it. Well done MATA.

Thanks for inviting me

Ian