Michael Ball

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang [Original Cast Recording]

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Film producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli, who bought the film rights to Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, also picked up Fleming's children's book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a fantasy about a family and a flying car, and in the 1960s he hired children's author Roald Dahl to co-adapt it into a screenplay and stole away songwriting brothers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman from Walt Disney to write the score. The Shermans' most successful film had been Mary Poppins, which co-starred Dick van Dyke, and Broccoli cast van Dyke as the father, bringing the whole project to United Artists, the same studio that handled the Bond films. The resulting two-and-a-half-hour children's movie musical appeared for the 1968 Christmas season, at which time it was greeted with lukewarm reviews and a modest box office success, while the soundtrack album reached the Top 100 and stayed in the charts for six months. That might have been that, except for the emergence of home video, which gave the film a new life among later generations of undiscerning children. Thirty-four years later, the film served as the basis for a musical that opened in London's West End on April 16, 2002. West End star Michael Ball replaced van Dyke, with Emma Williams stepping in for the film's Sally Ann Howes as the widowed father's love interest, Truly Scrumptious. Veteran British actor Brian Blessed had the small part of Baron Bomburst, and one of the villains, the Childcatcher, was played by Richard O'Brien, a long way from his days as creator and co-star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The main element of the production, in an echo of The Phantom of the Opera's falling chandelier and Miss Saigon's helicopter, was the car, which flew out over the audience at the end of the first act. Of course, that isn't visible on the cast album, although the actors do their best on the 14th track, "Chitty Takes Flight," to describe it. The album is more about the Shermans' score, which is similar to much of their work for the Disney films of the '60s, especially Mary Poppins, which also has a pre-World War I English setting. From the Academy Award-nominated title song to "Toot Sweets," "Posh," and "The Roses of Success," the score is full of tuneful, catchy songs that aim for charm, but often settle for silliness. "Hushabye Mountain" is a lullaby that allows Ball, as it did van Dyke before him, to pull the audience's heartstrings. The Shermans have dropped one song from the film ("This Lovely Lonely Man") and added a half a dozen that are either newly written or were dropped from the film, and the new songs are of a piece with the old. There's nothing as impressive as their best songs for Mary Poppins, but it's easy to imagine the music serving as the basis for many rousing production numbers in the show.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:43
2 4:26
3 2:23
4 0:43
5 4:37
6 2:05
7 2:46
8 2:26
9 2:35
10 1:41
11 2:18
12 3:08
13 2:31
14 1:47
15 0:47
16 4:27
17 2:49
18 3:09
19 2:37
20 3:49
21 2:21
22 1:27
23 5:20
blue highlight denotes track pick