Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
It’s uncategorical – a fuel burning oracle – a fantasmagorical machine!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is on a UK tour again, which takes in three North West venues starting with the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Tremt next week for a spectacular three-week run.
Leading man Darren Bennett, who plays the slightly eccentric Caractacus Potts – made famous by Dick van Dyke in the 1968 film – is the first to admit that “the star’s the car”.
“Of course the car is amazing. The reaction from the audience is always amazing,” he says.
“They always say never work with children or animals and I work with both, as well as a car that’s incredibly expensive. Half my job is done for me.
“You take it on board that they’ve come to see the car and hopefully what I do will help with the experience.”
Darren, 42, has suddenly found himself thrust into the spotlight in what is the biggest role of his career.
He has previously played leading parts in Singing in the Rain, 42nd Street, West Side Story and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
But now he feels his career will open up to more opportunities by taking on more mature roles.
He says: “This is the biggest production I’ve been involved with. I’m used to playing the young lead but, at 42, I guess I’m now old enough to play a dad-type character.
“I’ve been very keen for this part, but you can have all the talent in the world and they will give it to someone with a higher profile.”
And he admits he was a little surprised to get the nod for such a major role.
“Michael Rose is in charge of the show and I worked for him 22 years ago. If he thinks you’re of merit and likes what you do he’ll cast you again.
“For some reason he decided to take a risk with me on this. The star of the show is the car and if you’ve got someone with a personality it’s probably better than just a famous name.
“My background is one of a song and dance man. I’m used to jumping up and down and singing or dancing at the same time, and so Old Bamboo really suits me and I have fun with it.
“But when I stand still and sing Hushabye Mountain it’s a wonderful moment. The rest of the show is very frantic but that song let’s the audience listen to my voice.”
Aside from the demands of holding the theatre’s attention, extra pressure is placed on Darren’s shoulders in terms of the show running smoothly.
“The whole show is timed within an inch of its life,” he says. “I have to take care of the musical director and the stage crew who are operating all the animatronics. If things go wrong they go horribly wrong.
“Touch wood, something like that’s not happened yet, although we did have a situation where the car broke down – its wings weren’t coming out, so they had to stop the show because it could have become dangerous if things weren’t functioning properly.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs at the Regent Theatre from November 17 until December 5. Shows start at 7.30pm with 2.30pm matinées on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Tickets are £18.50 to £37.50. To book, phone the box office on 0844 871 7649.
The show can also be seen at the Palace Theatre in Manchester from April 27 to May 5 next year. And at the Liverpool Empire from June 29 to July 17.