Based on the 1968 movie musical, the show “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” plays at Seattle Children’s Theatre through Dec. 27.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s an airborne Rolls-Royce!
In the middle of the delightful production of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” at Seattle Children’s Theatre, you finally see The Car aloft.
It’s not the sorry jalopy that’s been gathering rust in an auto-repair shop, but the spiffy, multitalented vehicle it becomes after a phantasmagorical makeover.
‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’
adapted by Jeremy Sams. Through Dec. 27 at Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Center; tickets start at $25 (206-441-3322 or sct.org).
This is the race car that sprouts wings and flies, and stays afloat during high tide, in the children’s book written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming — who knows from super souped-up conveyances. It is also a character in the glossy 1968 movie musical of the same name, based on Fleming’s yarn. (And in several recently published “sequel” novels, penned by Frank Cottrell Boyce.)
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Sleek, snazzy and ready for action, the mobile wood-and-chrome wonder in SCT’s stage version of the film gets my vote for best prop of the year. And it’s just one of the many things that make SCT artistic director Linda Hartzell’s mounting of “Chitty” such a treat.
You can thank set designer Carey Wong for creating it (he modeled the vehicle after a 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Skiff), and for the show’s array of colorful sets evoking the Edwardian and Art Nouveau eras. The period costumes, by Catherine Hunt, are also plentiful and appealing. And Andrew D. Smith’s adept lighting scheme helps one imagine a full moon, a rising tide of ocean waves and cloudy skies.
In addition to the captivating visuals, Hartzell has assembled a crew of marvelous Seattle performers to animate the twisty tale of luckless inventor Caractacus Potts (ingratiating actor and impressive tenor Dane Stokinger) and his devoted offspring, Jemima and Jeremy (played alternately by two sets of children, in a cast that includes a sprinkling of other talented youths).
The family all share with a loving grandpa (Robert Shampain) a modest but jolly existence in a picturesque windmill. But every invention Caractacus devises has a fatal flaw or two. (Though you have to love the chunk of candy that doubles as an ocarina).
Father Potts’ hopes rest on restoring that jalopy. But he has to contend with the insufferable Baron and Baroness Bomburst (deliciously petulant Rich Gray and imperious Julie Briskman), spoiled aristos in the aptly named Eastern European nation of Vulgaria.
These Vulgarians are so eager to get their mitts on The Car, they’ve dispatched two emissaries (choice zanies Chris Ensweiler and Basil Harris) to snatch it by any means possible. But the latter’s mirthfully idiotic bumbling makes the mission impossible. And not even Vulgaria’s dastardly “childcatcher” (played with cackling glee by a lightly scary Khanh Doan) can derail the expected upbeat finale.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which runs about an hour and 45 minutes (with intermission), is festooned with musical numbers by the film’s composers, Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, best known for the score for Disney’s “Mary Poppins.”
Accompanied by a peppy live combo, the rousing ditties include the title tune, as well as “Truly Scrumptious” (named for the plucky daughter of a candy-factory owner, played by Emily Cawley), and the chin-up ode, “The Roses of Success.” All benefit from the jaunty choreography by Marianne Roberts. So does an enjoyably splashy samba number, polished off by Briskman and her Vulgarians.
If young children won’t get every pun and sardonic aside in writer Jeremy Sams’ theatrical adaptation of the movie, the elementary-schoolers I saw the show with did pick up on many of the very clever lyrics by the ingenious brothers Sherman. And apart from a few short lulls, they lapped up “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and its amazing car with glee.