With fond memories of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the 1968 MGM movie, I was eager to see this wonderful family show brought to the stage.
Adapted from Ian Fleming’s originally story into Roald Dahl’s screenplay, and then further developed for the stage, it was no wonder the feel of the show, both musically and aesthetically, reminded me of the bright and colourful Mary Poppins, as they were they were both penned by the same composers, Richard and Robert Sherman with book by Jeremy Sams.
The show is a children’s adventure story, full of fun, fantasy, song and dance, centred around the Potts family and a magical flying car. Caractacus Potts, an eccentric inventor fixes up an old junk pile of a racing car to keep the smile on his children’s faces after being told their favourite play thing was to be sold and melted down into a pile of metal. Unfortunately the teddy bear hugging Baron of Vulgaria wants this relic-turned-ultimate joy ride as his birthday present and sends out his bumbling spies to steal the car ‘Chitty’, or her inventor, but mistakenly kidnap Grandpa Potts instead. With the help of a confectionary magnate’s daughter, Truly Scrumptious, the family set out to outwit the Vulgarians, save Grandpa Potts, and Chitty.
David Hobson was well cast as Caractacus Potts. He was endearing as the widowed father doing the best he can for his children, quirky as the unconventional inventor, and nimble as he performed the spritely dance ‘Me Ol’bamboo’ which also showcased the talented male ensemble. Hobson’s rich tenor voice in the beautiful number ‘Hushabye Mountain’, was also a poignant moment for the audience.
Rachael Beck as Truly Scrumptious was well… truly scrumptious. Ever the consummate performer, Beck was perfect as the strong, yet charmingly sweet as Caractacus Potts’ love interest. Her rendition of ‘Doll on a Music Box’ both vocally and physically was just gorgeous and my favourite moment of the musical, as it was in the movie. Her generosity as an actor was obvious whenever onstage with the Potts children (Jeremy and Jemima), showing a genuine care and nurturing, not only for the children as characters, but the child actors who played them. Sharing the role of Jeremy was Campbell MacCorquodale and Jayden McGinlay, and the role of Jemima was Sophie Moman and Emma Cobb. I am continually awe struck whenever I see children performing lead and supporting roles in major musicals. Their talent, courage, and professionalism is impressive, especially when they carry a scene with such ease and competence beyond their years.
What was surprising was that some of the audience favourite’s were the baddies. Jennifer Vuletic, as the quirky but devious Baroness Bomburst, with a penchant for a bit of risqué business, was hysterically bold with her physical antics, as well as being impressive vocally. Shane Bourne as the infantile Baron Bomburst worked in well with Vuletic and as a pair, they provided much of the humour. The other comic duo was the bumbling Vulgarian spies sent out to steal chitty. George Kapiniaris as Goran was hilarious and together with Todd Goddard as Boris, his dastardly partner in crime, and provided many giggles for the audience throughout. With an updated script, topical one-liners and risqué jokes catering for an adult audience luckily flew way above the kiddy winkies heads.
Thank goodness most of the villains in this show were the comic relief, as the evil child catcher was enough to haunt any child’s dreams, as it did mine when I watched the movie for the first time. Tyler Coppin was so good at performing the villainous child catcher with his dark suit, tall hat, and pointy nose, and his scary rendition of ‘Kiddy-Widdy-Winkies”, that Coplin was aptly booed at curtain call – certainly a compliment for any actor playing a baddie.
Under the clever direction of Roger Hodgman, coupled with Dana Jolly’s joyous choreography, the show had many highlights and memorable comedic moments, like hundreds and thousands sprinkled on the icing of the cake. Little moments like the way the joggers ran while Chitty was passing them was one, or the surprise of a scruffy bunch of four-legged friends dashing across the stage!
Add to the mix, hummable tunes under the musical direction of Peter Casey, wonderful lighting effects by Matt Scott, and Anthony Ward’s colourful costumes and spectacular scenery, including an inventive breakfast making machine, and a fantastical hair cutting contraption (which on our night set off the smoke alarm which provided further memorable moments of adventure for the audience as we were evacuated out of the building for a short time), the show was a sure fire (pun intended) hit. And of course, we can’t forget the mega-star of the show – Chitty, the most expensive prop to ever don the stage was a mystery of mechanical engineering. How she floated on the foggy sea and flew above the stage was just magical.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is playing at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre until 22 December, and is great family outing for this holiday season.
For bookings and more information visit www.chittychitty.com.au