Thursday, 31 January 2013

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Feb 2, 2013 ***1/2

Music by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B.Sherman 
Adapted for stage by Jeremy Sams & Ray Roderick
Adapted from movie by Ken Hughes & Roald Dahl; original story by Ian Fleming
Produced by Tim Lawson
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne for 10 weeks
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2

The review is now on line Herald Sun, Arts. It wasn't published as expected in Sunday Herald Sun News pages, Sun Feb 3. KH
 Photo by Joe Calleri

The undeniable star of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the exquisitely designed, flying racing car that cost over a million dollars, making it the most expensive stage prop in theatre history.

Chitty won the audience’s appreciation by a country mile, leaving them gaping in childlike astonishment as this glossy, 1920s vehicle, carrying the human stars of the show, spread its orange wings and flew into a glittering night sky.

The Melbourne opening night audience was adorned with celebrities from stage, screen, radio and sports including: Stefan Denis, Shane Jacobsen, Colin Lane and musical theatre stars Marina Prior and Rhonda Burchmore.

Two of the celebs – tennis champ, Todd Woodbridge, and Debra Byrne, grand lady of the musical stage – were present to witness their respective children, Beau Woodbridge and Lucille Le Meledo, playing the perky, wide-eyed and precocious Jeremy and Jemima Potts who cheerfully sing Truly Scrumptious and Teamwork.

David Hobson, renowned tenor of the opera stage, plays Caractacus Potts, eccentric inventor and creator of the enchanted car, and his silken vocal tone resonates in the sweetly moving lullaby, Hushabye Mountain.

Hobson carries the Sherman brothers’ songs beautifully – particularly the title tune – but, although his dancing is surprisingly competent, his acting is limited, his dialogue uncomfortable, he lacks the clown skill required for the physical comedy, and he looks more startled than eccentric.

Rachael Beck, as Truly Scrumptious, Potts’ aptly named love interest, is pert and delicious with a warm, pretty voice, and her rendition of Doll On A Music Box, with its duet with Hobson as a jack in the box, is a sweet highlight.

The first half is slow to get cracking, but the comedic duo, George Kapiniaris and Todd Goddard as the Vulgarian spies, Goran and Boris, provide big laughs, as do a scampering rabble of scruffy dogs and a line of panting runners who are repeatedly passed by Chitty on the road.

The second half is completely stolen by the exceptional vocal talent and impeccable comic delivery and timing of Jennifer Vuletic as the haughty Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria, singing the silly love duet Chu–Chi Face and leading the chorus in The Bombie Samba.

Vuletic shifts hilariously from sexy lover, to heartless child-hater then into a whimpering mess at any mention of the “c” word – children.

Alan Brough is entertainingly childlike as her husband, Baron Bomburst, a teutonic man-child who adores toys and blowing things up, but Brough’s character lacks the contrasting bombastic militarism that ironically highlights his naïvete.

Peter Carroll’s Grandpa Potts is a delightfully potty, old British military man, and Tyler Coppin is reminiscent of a Tim Burton movie character as the scary, spider-like Child Catcher.

The Sherman brothers’ musical styles include 1900s music hall, lullabies, latin beats, children’s songs and peppy dance tunes, but the most memorable is the title song.

James Bond creator, Ian Fleming’s children’s book morphed into the 1968 movie written by Roald Dahl which was subsequently adapted in 2002 by Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick for this stage production.

Director, Roger Hodgman, keeps the action and the gags lively, Peter Casey conducts the orchestra skilfully, Dana Jolly’s choreography is cheerfully animated albeit unoriginal, and Anthony Ward’s set is effectively cartoon-like and his vivid costumes are high-gelati.

Families who loved Mary Poppins and its songs by the Shermans will enjoy this production, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lacks the array of award-winning, unforgettable songs, electrifying dance routines and magical characters that hallmark Poppins.

By Kate Herbert

 Photo by Joe Calleri
Creative Team
Director - Roger Hodgman
Choreographer - Dana Jolly
Musical Director/Conductor - Peter Casey
Scenic & Costume Designer - Anthony Ward
Lighting Designer - Matt Scott
Sound Designer - Kelvin Gedye

David Hobson - Caractacus Potts
Rachael Beck - Truly Scrumptious 
Tyler Coppin - Childcatcher
Jeremy Potts - Shared by Kade Hughes, Kurtis Papadinis, Beau Woodbridge
Jemima Potts - Quinn Cameron, Lucille Le Meledo, Caitlin Vippond
Alan Brough - Baron Bomburst
Jennifer Vuletic - Baroness Bomburst
Peter Carroll - Grandpa
George Kapiniaris - Goran the spy
Todd Goddard - Boris the spy
Phillip Gould - Toymaker
Tony Farrell- Coggins
Sophie Carter/Janna Fripp- Miss Philllips

  Photo by Joe Calleri
 Photo by Joe Calleri

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