Back on the road, in the air and at sea again after magically appearing in the Disney film a half century ago, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” continues to enchant the young and young-at-heart in the shining performance of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jr.” at the Children's Theatre of Annapolis.
Adapted to stage by Jeremy Sams with music and lyrics by brothers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, the British-American fantasy is based on the children’s book, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car,” written by spy novelist Ian Fleming in the mid-1960s.
The stage musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” came to life at the West End in London in 2002. The race car cost more than $1 million to create for that premiere production, breaking the Guinness World Record for the most expensive stage prop.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jr.,” — directed by Atticus Cooper Boidy (with excellent music direction and choreography by Trevor Greenfield and Kristin Rigsby, respectively) — is enacted here by an amazing cast of 9- to 18-year-olds.
Boidy, the resident artistic/technical director at Severna Park Middle School, applied a steampunk style to the show in a brilliant twist. It makes for lovely scenery with a Victorian industrial feel on a set designed by Todd Croteau and decorated by Allyson Tierney.
And the Dickensian, soldier and colorful dance costumes by Natasha Hitchcock and Leslie Rollins sync seamlessly into a 20th century musical fantasy.
The lights rise outside of Coggins Garage, where Jeremy and Jemima Potts (played by Pilot-Earle Smith and Anya Lengbeyer) pretend to race a broken-down 1920s race car in “The Opening.”
Enter the Junkman (Samantha Brenneman), who offers to buy the car from Mr. Coggins (Andy Rollins) for scrap metal. The children’s father, inventor Caractacus Potts (Andrew Wilson) counter-offers to buy and restore Chitty if he can raise 30 shillings.
Truly Scrumptious (Mackenzie Currie) zooms in on a runaway motorbike and sparks fly when she slams him as a parent — “Your children really ought to be in school,” she says.
Jeremy and Jemima comfort their father in a sweet performance by the three in “You Two,” and the family returns home where eccentric Grandpa (Blake Martin) performs a lovely “Them Three.”
Flash to Lord Scrumptious’ Sweet Factory where Potts discovers that Truly is the daughter of Lord Scrumptious (Sage Shanahan).
Meanwhile, in Vulgaria, the wickedly fun Baron and Baroness (Liam O’Toole, Erica Yamaner) plot to send spies Boris (Taghan McLaughlin) and Goran (Finn Hintermister) to steal the magic race car that beat Vulgaria in the Grand Prix three times.
At home, Potts sells his hair-cutting machine for exactly 30 shillings to the Turkey Farmer (Malia Segree) at the Fun Fair. He buys and restores Chitty and the car reveals it can fly en route to a picnic with the children and Truly Scrumptious on board.
By the seashore, Truly mentions that her mother named her sisters Madly and Deeply. “Seriously?” Potts asks. “No, he’s my brother,” she says.
But the lighthearted moment ends suddenly as the picnickers find themselves surrounded by the incoming tide and threatened by a Vulgarian warship.
Boris and Goran appear to reveal they’ve kidnapped Grandpa. And the ensemble joins in to perform “Chitty to the Rescue” with awesome special effects at the end of Act 1.
By Act 2, the race overseas to save Grandpa, Chitty, Jeremy, Jemima and the children of Vulgara is on.
Also included in Boidy’s delightful cast are: Ava Lecky (Miss Phillips), Cole German (Chef 1), Natalie Hosie (Chef 2), Ryan McCandless (as Fair Announcer), Sydney Broady (Violet), Mac Brabazan (Sid), Christina Smith (Soldier 1), Jetta-Earle Smith (Toymaker), Childcatcher (Haven Hitchcock), Maggie McInerney (Soldier 2), Emerson Powell (Toby), Mia Rinehart (Greta) and Victoria Santiago-Velez (Marta). Maddox Howard and Justin Porath complete the ensemble.
The main leads —Wilson as Potts, Currie as Truly, O’Toole as the Baron and Yamaner as the Baroness — soar vocally, and all of the singing, dancing and acting is outstanding.
“Hushabye Mountain,” “Chu-Chi Face,” “Me Ol’ Bamboo,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “The Bombie Samba,” and the breathtaking “Doll On A Music Box” are just a few of the catchy, nonstop highlights that leave “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we love you” echoing long after this charming show ends.