BWW Review: CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG Dazzles and Charms!
Manila, Philippines--Do not let your unfamiliarity with the 1968 movie stop you from watching Resorts World Manila's newest production, Ian Flemming's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." In fact, in this case, having very limited knowledge prior to watching the show (we are, of course, aware of the flying car since it is being used in the show's promotional advertisements) made the experience more thrilling and enjoyable. Thus, in this review, we shall afford you with the same courtesy and not give too many details about the story. If you happen to know the movie, trust us, this production can still dazzle you with enough charm, making it a satisfying time at the theatre.
This production's most impactful component is its gorgeous and eye-popping scenic design by Mio Infante. Collaborating with projection designer GA Fallarme and lighting designer Jon-Jon Villareal, the creative team is able to accomplish something that makes the best use of the huge Newport Performing Arts Theatre stage. Sometimes, before one scene transitions to the next, we see the actors "freezing" on the stage for one or two seconds. This is such a clever idea because the scene is punctuated with a sense of it being immortalized in some sort of a 3D-postcard, which, in addition, accentuates the decade in which this story takes place.
One of our favorite moments in the show is Gian Magdangal (Caractacus Potts) singing "Hushabye Mountain," a sweet lullaby with a music-box orchestration. This particular scene is reminiscent of classic Disney movies we used to watch as kids. It is also rather interesting to hear two songs (by composers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman), not sequentially performed in the show, yet the second song actually latches on the message of the first. For example, when Grandpa Potts (James Paolelli) sings "Them Three," referring to his son Caractacus and his grandchildren, Jemima (Isabeli Araneta Elizalde, Zoey Alvarade) and Jeremy (Albert SIlos, Noel Comia, Jr.), it somehow solidifies one of the show's central messages such as family and togetherness because of an earlier song "You Two," sung by Caractacus and his kids.
Although it slightly reminds us of certain scenes from another family musical, "Mary Poppins," Nancy Crowe's choreography and Bonsai Cielo's costume designs are instrumental in creating a playful atmosphere on the stage during the upbeat dance numbers such as "Toot Sweets" and "Me Ol' Bamboo." Crowe and Cielo are also responsible for giving Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who plays the evil Baroness of Vulgaria, her much-deserved moment in the middle of Act 2.
What is also worthy of accolades is the dedication and energy of such a top-notch and well-casted company of actors and ensemble. Leading the pack are Magdangal and Yanah Laurel (Truly Scrumptious) who are both in their prime as lead actors of the Manila theater scene. Magdangal, also a father in real life, carries the show from start to finish without a hint of exhaustion, just like his character's dedication as a father to his kids. There is also undeniable chemistry between him and Laurel, so as early as now we are already gushing over the thought of seeing them again as romantic leads in future projects. Among the featured roles, we truly enjoy the performances of Raymund Concepcion (The Baron of Vulgaria), who is almost unrecognizable with that wig and make-up on, and the tandem of Mako Alonso (Boris) and Reb Atadero (Goran). The latter have impeccable comic timing that even their crazy antics do not feel rehearsed or sloppy.
What could possibly be this show's only problem is its failure to send us "defying gravity"-chills the moment the car starts to fly. Although credit has to be accorded to director Jaime del Mundo for keeping the engine of this huge company well-oiled and running, he must make sure that moment in the show surpasses the anticipation of the audience. Whether or not this is a logistical limitation or a staging issue is beside the point. This is the "magic carpet ride" of this show, so it should and must generate gasps from the audience; otherwise, this production, which we think is Resorts World Manila's best to date, might be remembered solely by this one minor mishap.
"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" is presented by Resorts World Manila in cooperation with Full House Theater Company and Ultimate Shows Inc. The show runs until November 12, 2017, at the Newport Performing Arts Theatre (L2, Newport Mall, Newport Blvd, Pasay City).
For tickets, visit www.rwmanila.com or call (632) 908-8833
Photos: Resorts World Manila