Many modern stage musicals rely on a piece of technical wizardry that becomes synonymous with the show and an audience expects to see it: Wicked MUST have Glinda make her first appearance in a bubble; the chandelier MUST crash to the floor in Phantom Of The Opera; Mary Poppins MUST fly; and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang MUST have a car that floats and flies.
When non-professional children’s theatre company, Pelican Productions bravely clutched up the amateur rights to perform Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, their reputation would either sink or swim – or, in this case, flop or fly. Pelican’s production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang soars – it is FANTASMAGORICAL!!!
Co-directors Jen Frith and Kylie Green have lurched full speed and full on to produce a great old-fashioned, colourful, fun family musical with lots and lots of heart and tons of comedy and spectacle. Nina Richards’ wonderful choreography adds to the show delightfully. The show is also elevated by Martin Cheney’s professional sounding orchestra.
Clever animation and video projections by Sarah Schwab and Craig Williams; the ‘chitty’ car well handled technically by Scott Green, Phil McLaughlin and Colin Sweeney; and a wonderfully talented cast of youngsters (with adult Max Rayner as Grandpa thrown in for good measure), all add to making this production equal to (and in some cases, better than) the recent Australian professional version.
As well meaning inventor and father of two, Caractacus Potts, 22 year old Jason Bensen is magnificent. There is a strength and maturity in both his presence and voice that makes one only wonder what other lead roles are in store for him as he grows. Two other young performers who show maturity, this time in the comedy stakes, are Daniel Barnett and Emily Wood as Baron and Baroness Bomburst. Barnett and Wood are absolutely hilarious and work extremely well together. As spies Boris and Goran, Billie Turner and Joel Castrechini also make a great comedy duo.
Caitlin Mortimer makes a truly lovely Truly Scrumptious; whilst Zara Blight and Finnegan Green (reprising his role from the Adelaide professional season) as the Potts children are positively delightful. Nicholas Winter uses extravagance and exaggeration well to portray the dreadful Child Catcher; making the role a little more ‘child friendly’ than frightening. This particular character has been known to give children nightmares, so ‘hamming’ it up lightens the mood and is a good directional choice.
With so many young performers in the cast, it is impossible to mention them all – but trust me, they are all great.
For some top grade, excellent entertainment these school holidays, jump on board Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You’ll be so glad you did!
Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Your Twitter: @briangods
Venue: Scott Theatre Adelaide University off of Kintore Avenue, Adelaide
Season: 19 – 26 April 2015
Duration: 2 hours 30 mins including interval
Tickets: $25.00 – $40.00