BWW Review: SCT's CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG Soars
As a kid I remember being absolutely thrilled when the stars would align and something wonderful would come on to the afternoon movie like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" or "The Wizard of Oz" or the magical "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". Well that fantasmagorical, fuel burning oracle is back and on stage at Seattle Children's Theatre and it's just as magical as ever. And before you ask, yes, the car flies.
Based on the 1968 movie and of course the book by Ian Fleming (yes, that Ian Fleming of James Bond fame) we meet struggling inventor Caractacus Potts (Dane Stokinger) and his two kids Jeremy and Jemima (Alex Silva and Corinne Fischer for the performance I saw). The three are barely able to make ends meet but they're happy along with their eccentric Grandpa (Robert Shampain) and become even happier when they meet the lovely Truly Scrumptious (Emily Cawley) who just happens to be the daughter to the wealthy candy maker Lord Scrumptious (also played by Shampain). And while this is of course a perfect set up for romance between Caractacus and Truly, that will have to wait as Caractacus has cobbled together an amazing car that has caught the attention of the evil Vulgarians, the Baron and Baroness Bomburst (Richard Gray and Julie Briskman). So when the Vulgarians kidnap Grandpa thinking he made the car, our heroes must take Chitty to Vulgaria to try and rescue him.
Many of the same songs from the movie and a few new ones from the Broadway staging are still here although not all of them. I'm assuming some were cut for time to play at SCT and while I understand the cuts I do miss the Baron and Baroness singing "Chu-chi Face" which was always my favorite as a kid. But as I said, the magic is still there including some wonderful effects from Christopher Reay that put the car "on the water" and of course the glorious moment they made the car fly.
The cast is superb. Silva and Fischer are adorable as the precocious Potts children and have excellent voices. Stokinger is delightfully goofy as their loving father and the relationship between him and Cawley is lovely. Shampain is hilarious as both Grandpa and Lord Scrumptious and each of his characters are so individual that I didn't even realize they were the same actor until I was writing this. And I have to mention Basil Harris and Chris Ensweiler as the two absolutely hysterical Vulgarian spies. But as much as I loved everyone in the cast it was Gray and Briskman who walked off with every scene we were lucky enough to have them in. Anyone who's seen them already knows that they are two of the most gifted character actors in town and so when you couple that with the fact that it looks as though they are having a blast playing these two outrageous baddies, that you cannot help but love them (even though they're evil).
Sure I missed a little more of the setup and songs from the original movie and Broadway staging but that doesn't detract from the magic that director Linda J. Hartzell and the folks at Seattle Children's Theatre brought to that stage. And so with my three letter rating system I give them a truly scrumptious YAY. It's just a magical ride through the clouds aboard a favorite classic.
"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" performs at Seattle Children's Theatre through December 27th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Children's Theatre box office at 206-441-3322 or visit them online at www.sct.org.