A truly scrumptious musical…

HE’S BEHIND YOU: The cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Tunbridge Wells Operatic and Dramatic Society’s production of the legendary musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is at the Assembly Hall from May 31 to June 3. Eileen Leahy met director Chris Howland and some of the cast members to find out all about it…


Everyone’s favourite flying car will be taking centre stage at the Assembly Hall at the end of the month as the town’s favourite theatre troupe, Tunbridge Wells Operatic and Dramatic Society (TWODS) puts on its production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Showing just in time for half term, the performances promise to be nothing short of spectacular given the number of special effects and sensational sets TWODS has in store.

“This will be TWODS’ most lavish production to date and audiences will be treated to the spectacle of the famous car flying live on stage,” enthuses the show’s director Chris Howland.

So why did this talented amateur dramatics team decide to stage this legendary musical, which is based on a book by James Bond creator Ian Fleming with a screenplay by children’s author Roald Dahl?

“The chance arose to put on the production and we felt that it was too good an opportunity to not do it,” explains Chris.

“It is an iconic movie that’s dear to most people and the stage production is very close to the film.”

As an aside, Chris tells me that the 1968 film, which starred Lionel Jeffries, Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes, actually bares very little resemblance to the original book.

“In Fleming’s story, the Pott family lived in Maidstone and took Chitty for its first spin down the A20!” smiles Chris.

“I hope the older people in our audiences will remember their childhood watching this family film from years gone by, and as a result will experience a newfound love of this amazing musical.

“Seeing it live will be a very enjoyable experience as it is very faithful to the film, with a few extra songs thrown in. For the younger members of the audience, I hope they will enjoy seeing this fantastic musical for the first time. There is a car on stage that turns, floats and flies! It truly is a wonderful spectacle!”

Given the impressive stage sets and special effects have there been any challenges in putting this show on?

“Let’s say there have been a few. The actor playing Potts has to operate the car – with very few rehearsals! And we have two sets of children playing the brother and sister characters so that means we have to rehearse everything twice which takes a little longer – and a lot of patience.”

Just like the classic seventies film, the TWODS shows will feature all the Sherman & Sherman sing-along favourites, including ‘Truly Scrumptious’, ‘Toot Sweets’, ‘Hushabye Mountain’, ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ and the Oscar-nominated title song ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’.

Tim Taylor is the most recent TWODS recruit and he tells the Times that he is very excited to be part of the cast.

“This is my first ever show, and I’ve especially loved seeing how the whole performance comes together. Learning the songs, then the choreography, combining the two and then figuring out where it all fits together with the dialogue. That’s before I mention props, costumes, make-up and – of course – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang itself!

“The whole experience has been one of the best in my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to share it with a group of incredibly talented, kind and fun people.”

Lee Beaney, who plays the show’s infamous Child Catcher adds: “There are many things in this production I’m enjoying. There are the dance numbers which have been choreographed to within an inch of their lives, and which are sure to look stunning during show week. But I have to also point out the amount of fun and laughter we’ve all had during rehearsals.

“That kind of experience as an ensemble bonds you forever.”

“I have to admit that having the chance to play a baddie like the Child Catcher is so much fun – especially when seeing the reactions on people’s faces!”

Chloe Randall, who is part of the overall Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ensemble, agrees that it is a terrific experience.

“Being in this show is amazing as it is a dream to have the opportunity to dance to classics like ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ or ‘Toot Sweets’, while also singing some amazing songs. It is also great to work with such talented kids and I have no doubt that seeing Chitty fly for the first time will be the ultimate highlight.”



TWODS will be performing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at The Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells this coming half term (from Wednesday May 31 to Saturday June 3), with performance times of 1pm and 6pm, especially designed to make this accessible to young families.

Tickets are priced from £19 are selling fast,so early booking is strongly advised. For more information about the show visit: twods.org

Bucket collections will take place after each performance to raise funds for the Tunbridge Wells branch of Sands, a national charity which supports all those affected by the loss of a baby before, during or shortly after birth.

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