Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang BangPhotos – Jeff Busby


I should begin this review with a confession. You know how there are films that define your childhood? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of those films for me. I must have seen it about fifty times. I used to know the whole thing off by heart – songs, words, dance moves, score, everything. (It drove my parents crazy.) When I heard that a production of it was going on in Sydney, I was incredibly excited and simultaneously very apprehensive. What if I didn't like it? What if it managed to ruin my beloved Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for me?

Luckily for me – and for the audiences of Sydney – this new revival is great. It manages to straddle the awkward line between being too slavishly faithful to the film and departing entirely from it. It's not exactly erudite entertainment, but it doesn't aspire to be. This is a show for the starry eyed eight year olds within us all: simple, hopeful, magical.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the story of inventor Caractacus Potts (David Hobson), who, although struggling for money, manages to scrape up enough to buy the decrepit race car his children love playing in. Along with newfound acquaintance and romantic interest Truly Scrumptious (Rachael Beck), he and his children find themselves on a wacky adventure deep into the heart of Vulgaria to rescue Grandpa Potts (Peter Carroll) from the clutches of the wicked Baron and Baroness Bomburst (Alan Brough and Jennifer Vuletic). It is a story about imagination and family and love and adventure – and most of all, a story about a very special magical car.

This production is wonderfully cast. David Hobson doesn't have the bizarrely elastic body that Dick Van Dyke did when he originated the role of Caractacus in 1968, but his singing is unparalleled. His Caractacus is warm, quirky, brilliant, and loving. He is well matched by Rachael Beck as Truly, whose turn as the doll on the music box in the second act is outstanding. I must also commend the child actors in this show (and the canine ones!), but for me, the show was stolen by the Vulgarians. Alan Brough and Jennifer Vuletic as the Baron and Baroness are awesome – I was highly amused to see that this production has not only kept in but expanded on the adults-only jokes from the film (which I didn't get the first 45 times I saw it). George Kapinaris and Todd Goddard as Charlie Chaplin-esque spies Goran and Boris are hilarious, and Tyler Coppin is perfect as the Childcatcher, playing him somewhere between Professor Snape, Fagin, and the Hitcher from the Mighty Boosh.

If there's one technical weakness in the show, it's probably the choreography. The special effects are so spectacular – I mean, come on, a flying car! – that the dancing seems to fall short at times. Additionally, the structure of the show means that there's less focus on the power of imagination than there was in the original (though considering my level of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang knowledge, this is probably a total nitpick). However, these are minor things. I loved this production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Sitting in the audience watching it, I was a little kid again: wide-eyed and enthralled by the magic and spectacle of it all. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman | Adapted for the stage by Jeremy Sams and Ray Broderick | Based on the MGM Motion Picture

Directed by Roger Hodgman

Venue: Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell Street, Haymarket
Dates: from 16 November 2012
Times: Tue 7pm, Wed to Sat 8pm; Matinees Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm & Sun 3pm
Tickets: $69.60 to $129.90 (transaction and booking fees may apply)
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 723 038 |

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