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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Based on the Ian Fleming Book, Music by the Sherman Brothers

COMPANY : Broadway Across America [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Fabulous Fox [WEBSITE]
ID# 3383

SHOWING : April 21, 2009 - April 26, 2009

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

You’ll believe a car can fly! CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is everything you could want in a musical – and more. Sensational sets, stunning special effects, an irresistible story, and an unforgettable Sherman Brothers score, including memorable classics like “Truly Scrumptious”, “Hushabye Mountain”, and, of course, the Oscar®-nominated title song, all add up to a Broadway blockbuster the whole family will love.

The enthralling adventure of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, the magical car that sails the seas and flies through the air, has been a family favorite since the original motion picture captivated the world’s imagination in 1968. Chitty's eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts, and his children, Jemima and Jeremy, join the truly scrumptious Truly Scrumptious and kooky Grandpa Potts in outwitting the dastardly Baron and Baroness of Vulgaria in their attempt to steal the flying car for themselves.


CAST & CREW LIST
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

My Favorite Movie hits the Stage
by StageFan
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
5.0
This was a sensation show but of course it was at the Fox and a Broadway Across America, so expectations were high. The show delivered great entertainment, high quality vocals and choreography! I loved the kids in this show. The little boy playing the son was sensational. I read he is a southern boy but his accent didn't show it. What a great dancer! The little girl was outstanding. Well, the entire show gave me chills to watch it. The music for the show again was right on target. So, if you have a chance to catch this show in another city, I highly recommend it. The costumes were so great too. If you missed it here, look out for the Broadway Across America shows because they are always great. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Charmless Crash and Burn
by Dedalus
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
2.0
I have to confess that I have never encountered any version of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” -- not the original Ian Fleming book, not the Roald Dahl movie adaptation from 1968. So, my preconceptions going into this mega-budget musical were non-existent. I was told it was a charming fantasy involving an eccentric inventor, his kids, and their magical car, which sounded like a good base for a musical.

Well, not to be too blunt, but I thought this show had the charm of a Metallica concert, a plot so ridiculously over-the-top as to beggar description, and a fifties mindset that grated like cheese. Even the highly anticipated flying car affect was clunky and badly done, relying on dark lights to work and undercut by characters standing stock-still and waving as it churned its aerial hippo-ballet. I hated this show.

Let’s start with the most obvious (to me) problem. I have often railed about the Fox Theatre’s bad sound system and acoustics, and plan on doing so again here. Only now, it was obvious that the sound system belonged to the touring company – speakers were piled tens of feet high and turned up to full volume, delivering to my quivering eardrums a major headache and no comprehension whatsoever. I literally could not understand a single lyric sung, and most of the between-scenes dialog was shouted at full-voice belt. Even an anticipated lullaby (“Hushabye Mountain”) was delivered at a volume designed to wake the dead and make their ears bleed. The good news is that, for one number, the mike system went out completely. The bad news is that, even 10 rows back, the singer was not loud enough to be heard or understood.

Which, of course, means I am in the uncomfortable position of trying to relate a plot I couldn’t follow because I couldn’t understand a word being said or sung. From what I could piece together (and fans of the book and movie may feel free to correct any of these points), Caractacus Potts is a crackpot inventor and single father of two charming kids, though I was unclear what happened to their mother. He takes up with a blandly attractive lady named Truly Scrumptious, obviously wandering in from one of Mr. Fleming’s Bond novels (and I have ALWAYS detested the single-entendre nature of those “Bond-girl” names – this one is no better). For some reason I couldn’t discern, both Caractacus and a Baron from the mythical land of Vulgaria want the rusted hulk of an old car sitting in a junkyard. When Caractacus puts the car together, it suddenly becomes magic and does anything you ask it, as long as you say “Please.” To justify a second act, Grandpa Potts is kidnapped to Vulgaria by a couple of pseudo-comic spies (whose antics never made me smile, let alone laugh), and Caractacus, Truly, and the kids fly after them in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (such an imaginative name for a car, don’t you think?). The problem is, Vulgaria has outlawed children (now there’s a plan for the future). Somehow or other, the car rescues everyone (I think), and the bad Baron is defeated by wrapping him up in a banner (surely a tactical lesson for the Pentagon).

If you detect a bit of scorn in my plot description, it is fully intentional. I normally love fantasy, even fantasy designed for a children’s adventure story. But here, there was absolutely nothing to get me involved with the characters or their dilemma. The conflict was non-existent, the adventure was contrived, and the fantasy lacked that thread of plausibility that’s supposed to give flight to our imaginations. Instead, the entire enterprise gets bogged down in complex stage mechanics, over-the-top mugging, and arbitrary “rules” that make no sense.

That’s not to say there isn’t a seed of something that could work. Many of the characters and songs seem to come from a British Music Hall tradition, and there are two highly energetic group numbers that work. “Me Ol’ Bamboo” is a tuneful and pointless showstopper that is enjoyable in and of itself, but doesn’t seem to belong to the story. Likewise, in Act II, we’re given a Samba number set at a birthday party during which the company pulls out all the stops, and, again, I sorta liked it (even though it hit every single Rio musical cliché ever devised). The two spies seem more like Cockney comics (with Russian accents), and Grandpa could be easily played by the Chairman of “Drood.” If this concept had been embraced by the director, it would have made a pleasant, if derivative diversion. But, no, it was directed with any conceptual flourishes hidden, just so we could see that hideously expensive and terribly tacky car float in the air.

Maybe, this was written by and for car enthusiasts. After all, the Press Packet did have more pages on the series of cars that inspired the story than it did on the original book, the 1968 movie, the authors, and the current cast combined. Of course, this “background” isn’t very relevant to the story or the play, but durn it, the PR folks did their googling and want to show it! I was never that into the whole “car culture,” so I didn’t understand the characters’ fascination with the rusted heap, or why a doofus baron 1000 miles away would be interested in it.

There were just too many scenes and songs in this that dragged on and on and on with no apparent purpose (or entertainment value). As an example, the “Childcatcher” scene was cited in the presskit as one of the “top 25 most frightening scenes ever filmed” (and is, at heart, the source of my wife’s aversion to the movie). Here, though, what we see is a comically bizarre figure (made up to be less realistic than the Wicked Witch of the West), standing, sniffing, and saying “There are children here! I can smell them!” at least six times (by my count). I was ready to doze off after the third. And I probably would have if the volume weren’t turned up to bleeding-eardrum levels.

There is admittedly some charm in the leading performances by Steve Wilson (Caractacus), Kelly McCormick (Truly), and the kids (Jeremy Lipton and Maggie Fitzgerald on opening night). There are at least two bearable, even toe-tapping “Big” numbers. And, there is a lighting and set design (Chitty notwithstanding) that is exuberantly extravagant and imaginative. But all this good stuff is totally obliterated by the completely ludicrous and contrived story, the ill-conceived and clumsy flying sequences, and a sound engineer who must be deaf (or at least will be soon).

It is a charmless mess that crashes and burns, and takes far too long to do it.

I will refrain from describing it with a phrase that Chaucer would have rhymed with the first half of the title.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Pity Pity Dang Dang by playgoer
I agree that "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was entirely too loud. And in the performance I saw, the sound system remained unremittingly ON for the entire production. I wish shows would post decibal ratings, since this was not a show I would have anticipated requiring earplugs.

I agree that the capture of the Baron and Baroness at the end of the show was pretty perfunctory. The movie had scads of children scurrying into the hall, chases all about, and nets dropping from the ceiling. What was put onstage in its place was a pale shade of pallid.

For those with fond memories of the movie (like me), the show had enough of the feel of the original to keep those memories in mind as the stage show reeled along. The little new material (such as the samba number) fit in adequately, but certainly didn't surpass the original material.

From the dress circle, the flying car scenes certainly had a "how did they do that?" feel to them that impressed the car-lover seated next to me. The dog scenes were crowd-pleasers too (although they did point out the contrast between the unlimited resources of the movie and the extremely limited resources available for a live show).

It appears that the show was designed to cash in on the title by getting grown-ups who had enjoyed the movie as kids to introduce their own kids to it. And this is live theatre, after all, not just another DVD popped in the player. Introducing a child to the theatre can be a good thing.


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