WE'RE backstage, chatting with the Child Catcher.

He’s now removed his four-inch prosthetic nose and cleared his throat ready to talk after Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s opening night at the Theatre Royal, Brighton.

“We tried out four different noses” he said.

“A big bobbly one, a great hooked one, and an even longer one, before settling on this warty, protruding number.”

Brighton Theatre Group has nailed this rendition of the 1968 film down to the finest details and it does things the film never could.

Here’s one: the gang is taking the newly restored race car for a spin.

As a digital backdrop shows the car sailing forward, a line of white-socked joggers in the foreground drifts back. It’s a stunning 3D optical illusion – and it’s also needless.

This play excels itself by devoting attention even where it doesn’t have to bother. There’s a flashy five-minute samba, a dream-like circus scene. Neither are important to the plot: Chitty pulls out the valves and stops at every turn. It feels like tremendous value.

It’s soon clear there’s nothing amateur about this am dram production. “It’s just a word,” said producer Keith Shepherd – who mucked in to get the car flying.

One refrain, sung by the ragged urchins in the Baron’s dungeon – could apply to the whole production: “teamwork, can make a dream work.”

Pyrotechnicians set off explosives for live gunfire, a costume designer made billowing red trousers for a clown on stilts, and the orchestra turned their instruments to everything, even the Nokia theme tune when asking us to switch off our mobiles. The devil, again, is in the detail.

And you can call off the Child Catcher: the children were great. The lead brace are cute, but they’re also damn fine actors. From the mud-smeared urchins in the Baron’s dungeon to Grandpa Potts, everyone here is, and the audience know it. The theatre roars when the bungling spies crop up, and hiss when the Child

Catcher slinks in. And to top it off, a proposal.

Five stars: truly scrumptious.