By Penny Mulvey
I hadn’t seen the movie or read the book since I was a child. But as the mother of a musical theatre star-in-training it is important to experience as many stage productions as possible, and so Josh and I immersed ourselves in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
For those who don’t know, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was originally a children’s novel written by Ian Fleming of James Bond fame. In 1968, the loosely based film adaptation featuring catchy tunes by the Sherman Brothers (who also wrote the lyrics and music for Mary Poppins) mesmerised children with dreams of flying cars and lolly making machines.
The stage musical, based on the film, was first performed at the London Palladium Theatre in 2002, and is now playing at Her Majesty’s in Melbourne with the most applause going to the star of the show – Chitty.
The costuming and props are a knock-out. The lead actor is disappointing. David Hobson, cast in the role of eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts, is too much the straight man. He has a spectacular voice, but for the audience to become fully engaged in what is ultimately a silly story, we need to be pulled into the craziness of his character.
The sudden scene changes, lurching from the odd to the outlandish to the bizarre with little clear connection, left the audience a little bemused, as was evidenced by muted clapping at times.
Rachael Beck, in the role of Truly Scrumptious, provides one of the highlights of the show with her performance of ‘Doll on a Music Box’. George Kapiniaris and Todd Goddard are very engaging as the comedic Vulgarian spies, Goran and Boris.
That said, it is a musical for children, and all the children in the audience seemed enchanted. In many ways it is a high energy, sumptuous morality play, filled with messages of good manners, happy families and hard work.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the Musical, Her Majesty’s Theatre Melbourne, strictly limited season.