All the fun of being a kid again
By Kim Edwards
I went to Her Majesty’s last night with every intention of being a theatre critic. But there was the excited boy behind me who chattered until the lights went down, whereupon he sat in rapt silence. And the little girl across the aisle who asked in a horrified whisper, “Doesn’t that mean lady like children?!” And the preschooler in front who crawled into mum’s lap at a crucial moment and exclaimed, “Oh no!!” And the audience spontaneously clapping along throughout, and booing the villain, and applauding the over-excited dog who lost his way…
And my inner child kicked my shins and pulled my pigtails, and I succumbed to the joyful fun of a good family musical, and caught my breath in sheer child-like wonder at that spectacular magical moment closing Act One.
Written by the creator of James Bond, scored by the musical talents behind Mary Poppins, and starring a who’s who of Melbourne celebrities and theatre stars, this production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where a magic car takes a little family on a wild ride into adventure, is full of action, colour, verbal wit and slapstick comedy, and delightful music. My first compliments go to the deliciously dynamic men’s chorus whose spinning dance in Toot Sweets, infectious energy in Ol’ Bamboo, and hilarious elderly antics in Roses of Success won my heart completely. Rachael Beck does a charming job as love interest Truly Scrumptious, Tyler Coppin was wonderfully creepy as the Child-Catcher, and Alan Brough as the Baron and Jennifer Vuletic as ‘that mean lady’ the Baroness were superb comic chemistry.
It was the scene-stealing clowning of the Vulgarian spies played by Todd Goddard and George Kapiniaris however, who most pleased grownups with ribald humour and the kids with their buffoonery.
David Hobson as lead Caractacus Potts does an admirable job, and it is my nostalgic affection for Dick Van Dyke that made this genteel, velvet-voiced portrayal harder to appreciate. It is a shame the theme of overcoming class boundaries therefore gets lost, however.
So the prolonged exposition in the opening scene is clunky, the romance a little flat and unconvincing, the English accents sometimes dubious, and the ‘defeat’ of the bad guys in the finale clumsy – but who cares? Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is thoroughly entertaining and the perfect introduction to the marvels of musical theatre – your kids are simply going to LOVE it.
Playing until March 17 at Her Majesty’s Theatre – book at Ticketek or call 1300 795 012