Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

chitty-chitty-bang-bang2

It’s a Flying Car, but Not Much Else

By Ben Ryland

 

Ian Fleming was the creator of “Bond, James Bond,” then in 1964 he wrote a book for his young son, Casper. That book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was musicalized by the Disney composing team into a popular children’s film. Using all of his stylistic Bond writing touches he created a hero into gadgets a fantastical flying car, a foreign villain (anyone other than British/American) from a strange foreboding land and a heroine with a comical name.

 

This stage version very popular in London but not so popular in New York is on tour currently at the Hippodrome. Only this time the hero’s (Potts/Bond) girl doesn’t get laid, and the villain is silly instead of menacing, while our leading man is still very into gadgets- in fact he is an actual inventor.

 

When Caractacus Potts creates a candy stick whistle that blows we simply have the entire show review ready to go. CCBB is very juvenile, obsessively so but I want to blame it failure on stage adapter Jeremy Sams. The director, Ray Roderick, seems to have tried to work some alchemy in the production but apparently didn’t have much to work with. The songs are too generic and unmemorable to make much of a difference with the exception of ‘Toot Sweets’ and ‘Hushabye Mountain.’ You will get sick of the title tune reprised in voice and endlessly repeated in background arrangements.

 

Steve Wilson as Potts is bland but it seems to work for him and much of the cast. Vocally

most are standouts including Truly Scrumptious (Kelly McCormick) and the touring child actors. The standout performance, if brief, is given by Oliver Wadsworth as the Childcatcher and nice comic relief is offered by Dirk Lombard and Scott Cote as the Baron’s bumbling henchmen.  As for the Baron and Baroness villains they are too silly for words; to the point of embarrassing.

 

The true star of the show is the flying car of course and the effect is not just exciting but exhilarating for the audience. I could spend several paragraphs on ‘how-they-did-it’ like the Sunpaper critic has but most theatre patrons, including myself; wish to believe in theatrical stage magic especially when there are no wires holding the rest of the show together.

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – at the Hippodrome Theatre, 12 North Eutaw St.

Currently playing until Sunday, January 18th.

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