London Palladium, London W1
Opened 16 April, 2002

**** It's big, it's bright and for once, it works a treat

A previous Palladium show posted an amazed quote outside from me saying "It's good. It really is. Really and truly. Yup." Well, so is this.

Director Adrian Noble's pension fund is secure, even if he messes up his day job at the Royal Shakespeare Company; this one will run and run. It's not simply a matter of recreating the wonder of the 1968 movie, with a few bits added a welcome prologue explaining the back-story to the car's magic, and a couple of gratuitous big-production sequences draped around new musical numbers. There's something about Ian Fleming's story, which Jeremy Sams' stage adaptation catches beautifully, that makes it easy for actors to enjoy themselves in it without ever seeming to patronise it. The inevitable casting of Brian Blessed as Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria is only the loudest of many instances where players revel in playing. Yet they know their limits; even Richard O'Brien brings his usual flamboyance to heel as the Child Catcher. Only Michael Ball as inventor Caractacus Potts is occasionally in too blatant stage-musical mode.

Anthony Ward's design is likewise extravagantly playful; it may be sad that special effects get wild applause, but it is hard not to gasp when the full-size car sails over the heads of the audience. Worth even mega-West End ticket prices.

Written for

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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