BWW Review: CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is Truly Scrumptious at The Coterie Theatre
The world premiere of the Theatre for Young Audiences version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opened Friday June 20 at The Coterie Theatre in Crown Center. Ian Fleming the creator of the legendary James Bond spy novels wrote the novel that Roald Dahl adapted, which became the hit musical MGM motion picture.
This musical about a car found in a scrap yard that when reassembled takes on magical powers originally was billed as "the most phantasmagorical musical in the history of everything. . ." Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, composers of Disney classics Mary Poppins, The Aristocrats, and The Jungle Book among others wrote songs for the film.
"Some time ago, I saw the stage musical in London with a car that flew using hydraulics to lift and tilt it. How will we do it? Well, I'm working with designer Alex Espy, who is creating the car from a concept I had for staging the show in an imaginative, new way," explains Coterie Producing Artistic Director Jeff Church. "This is the first time permission for the musical has been given to try a new way of showcasing the car. We're very excited to show our audiences . . . but I'm not giving away any secrets early!"
Anthony T. Edwards directs the music for The Coterie production, which includes songs from the motion picture. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang closes out the 2013-2014 season, and what a wonderful way to end it, flying high on fenders of the most magical car ever Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The design of the Coterie car by Alex Espy lets the audience buy into the concept that the car does fly and sail the oceans.
Jake Walker plays Caractacus Potts the inventor who, at the urging of his children, takes the rusting Gran Prix auto to his shop and brings it back to life; unaware spies want to steal the car. Walker's voice is natural and wonderful to listen to and his performance as the father of Jemima and Jeremy Potts is grand.
Broadway veteran Jerry Jay Cranford plays the duo roles of Baron Bomburst and Lord Scrumptious. Cranford choreographed the movements for The Coterie production. The choreography worked well with the size of the set and his performance was natural and fun to watch.
Stefanie Wienecke is fabulous in the role of Truly Scrumptious, the daughter of the wealthy candy maker. She has a marvelous voice that blends well with the rest of the cast and with Walkers. Regardless of what role she portrays, her acting is as natural as if she was standing and talking to a neighbor. Wienecke has appeared with Egads! Theatre Company, the New Theatre Restaurant, and Musical Theater Heritage.
Julie Shaw appears as Miss Phillips, Violet, and Baroness Bomburst. She is hilarious in her role of the children hating Baroness. She passes out at the mere mention of children and I thought I might pass out from laughing so hard at her performance. Shaw has appered at Quality Hill Playhouse, American Heartland Theatre, and The New Victory Theatre in NYC.
Allison Banks takes on the role of Jemima Potts the young daughter of the famed inventor. She is superb, performing like a veteran three times her age. For three years, Banks has taken the Master Classes offered by the Coterie Theatre. She has appeared with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Spinning Tree Theatre, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, and in Science Fiction Triple Feature and Shrek the Musical at The Coterie Theatre.
Lucas Dorrell fabulously portrays Jeremy Potts the son on Caractacus Potts. Dorrell has a great voice and a splendid stage presence. He has previously appeared at The American Heartland Theatre, Starlight Theatre, and in Seussical and Lyle the Crocodile at The Coterie.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang continues at The Coterie Theatre through August 3. Purchase tickets by calling the box office at 816-474-6552 or The Coterie Theatre website. Saturdays are Target Saturdays with a free copy of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Rides Again" by Frank Cottrell Boyce (while supplies last) and two for one tickets courtesy of Target Department Stores. Photo courtesy of The Coterie Theatre.