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This highly entertaining and fantasmagorical Browadway musical has landed, or shall I say drove in, at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The musical’s adaptation of the 1968 classic film stays true to the original maintaining the story of the loving family, the original score, and most importantly it still has the flying car!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang begins with two young children playing on a junky old racecar from the British Grand Prix. It’s been out of commission since a race in 1910 and now just a toy in a junkyard. The children have grown fond of the car and are shocked when owner of the junkyard, Mr. Coggins, sells the car for 30 shillings. They tell their father Caractacus Potts (Steve Wilson), an eccentric English inventor, he should buy the car. Caractacus understands his children very well and doesn’t want them to lose touch of the car so he claims he will buy it. The only problem is that he doesn’t have 30 shillings.
Luckily, a pretty lady runs into Caractacus, literally, and she’s truly scrumptious. No seriously, her name is Truly Scrumptious, played by Kelly McCormick, whose father is candy maker Toots Scrumptious. You can see just by this how insanely silly this musical is. Their adventure begins with Truly and the kids after Caractacus is able to buy the rusty car after selling his outlandish hair-cutting machine. Caractacus quickly repairs the car, only he doesn’t just repair it, he improves it. The car basically becomes magical with the justification that it was fixed by an inventor.
This is where the movie and the musical differ. The story is practically the same however the ridiculous, yet crazily fun, adventures take place in reality rather than in a dream. I have no issue with this since they make their world believable. The musical’s world felt like a mix between Willa Wonka and Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island.
It’s in the second act that this new world plays out as they must outwit the comical Baron and Baroness of Vulgaria in their evil plan to steal the flying car for their ruler. Let me just say that everyone in Vulgaria seemed to be a little vulgar. The humor has some contemporary jokes, but fit in well. I only worry that writers may be pushing it a little too far for this family show. Then again, they even joke about how they are vulgar people. None of the jokes are anything you have to worry your kids understanding though. It’s the cleverly written songs of the second act that truly, really shine.
Every song has that catchy beat from composers Richard and Robert Sherman. Even if you don’t recognize their name, you know their music. The Sherman Brothers are responsible for such classics as the “Marry Poppins” soundtrack, “The Jungle Book” and even the infamous “it’s a small world” song. People in the attendance for opening night were even treated to Richard M. Sherman sitting with the audience watching the show.
The crucial moral to get from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the importance of nurturing imagination and creativity. It’s wonderful that this on stage production managed to portray this by not having a dream sequence but rather just allowing the audience to have a bigger imagination.
This is a great one to bring the family. If you don’t have any children to bring, I believe that it will make you smile just as much. Try telling me you won’t be singing “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” when you exit the hall. It’s worth just seeing the great special effects and specially designed stage for their rolling sets. Of course, there is also that darn car. Simply, irresistibly, magical!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is now playing through July 19th at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Segerstrom Hall. Tickets start at $20 to $70 and are available at OCPAC.org, at the Center’s Box Office or by calling (714) 556-2787.