BWW Review: CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG - Orpheus Theatre Brings a Classic to Ottawa
Orpheus Musical Theatre's production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang coincides with the 50th anniversary of the classic movie of the same name, starring Dick Van Dyke. The movie itself was based upon a children's book authored by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame.
Orpheus gave the starring role to the car, Chitty - a beautifully crafted stage prop unlike any I have ever seen in this calibre of production. Kudos to the props team - you really outdid yourselves.
Caractacus Potts, played by Paul Melsness, was outstanding. He has a wonderful singing voice and stage presence and his charisma was apparent through the show. The children, however, were the real superstars. Sophie Pierce and Aleksander Rohozinski, playing the roles of Jemima and Jeremy Potts, respectively, have a natural talent for performing. Pierce, in particular, approached her role with gusto and both kids gave their roles 110%. Andréa Black, in the role of Truly Scrumptious, paled in comparison. She appeared to have difficulty reaching higher notes - with the notable exception of the "Doll on a Music Box" number, where she gave a performance that completely enraptured the audience.
The ensemble brought delightful choruses to the songs, especially the title theme. However, the choreography of the dances was noticeably off time. Many of the dance routines required perfect synchronization, which may have been challenging for the choreographer with an ensemble of this size. That being said, the opening scene, featuring the ensemble cheering a race, was well done and set the stage for the rest of the show.
Grandpa Potts had a fun character played to perfection by Jim Robertson. Likewise, Michael McSheffrey was excellent in the role of the Toymaker.
The Vulgarian spies, Boris and Goran (Marcus Winchester and Sam Smith), as well as the Baron (Jared Landon) and Baroness (Kelly Fuoco) of Vulgaria, were humorous. These roles seemed like live caricatures of Ian Fleming's James Bond villains. Their accents hardly wavered and their bombastic performances made the performance more enjoyable. A few clever references to the politics of our neighbours to the south were well received by the audience.
The costumes and sets were beautiful and captured the time period. Little details stood out, such as the Baron and Baroness' birthday outfits, the pastel candy carts in the sweet shop, and the Childcatcher's (Jason Sedlar) "catchmobile". The use of lighting was well done, with the exception of two scenes that used a spotlight. The spotlight itself was too dim, reducing the impact of this technique, as the figure was not well illuminated.
The use of a child (Edalia Taylor) as the Potts' family dog, Edison, was seemingly added for comic relief but felt out of place, given the tone of the rest of the show. It would be understandably difficult to use live animals in the production, as was done in the Broadway version of the show; however, I felt that the use of a puppet or toy may have better fit the overall tone.
This production is recommended for families with children and, while not my favourite Orpheus production, it was still enjoyable. Fair warning though: the theme song will get stuck in your head all. night. long.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs through November 25th at Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit https://www.orpheus-theatre.ca/chittychittybangbang.