‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ soars into summer theatre

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Bob Compton/Theatre in the Park

Fifty years under the stars continues with Shawnee Mission’s Theatre in the Park production of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” a live version of the popular children’s movie about an incredible car that drives, floats, and flies.

Following closely on the heals of “Annie”, TTIP offered “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” last weekend and the fun continues for several more performances this week Wed.-Sat. night at 8:30, weather permitting. Opening weekend suffered one rain-out and threatening conditions on Friday and Sunday nights.

Bob Compton/Theatre in the Park

A cast with a mix of new and previous TTIP performers gave the show a nice texture while grooming others for subsequent parts. “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” brings the movie characters to life with good performances by Tyler Walker, Fran Opheim, Graham Fairleigh, Nancy Seeman, Andrew Ramaley and Jay Coombes. All the actors gave good performances, but those particularly stood out.

Director Julie Ewing undertook a huge task in bringing “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” to the TTIP stage. The car needs to float and fly. With some good projections and design, the effects worked. The sets were appropriate and the choreography by Lana C. Jensen was fun and lively. The score sounded bigger and brighter with music direction by Michelle McIntire. The title song was light and playful with the combination of instrumental and vocal performances.

Theatre in the Park

The original story comes from Ian Fleming who also wrote the James Bond series of books. How could anyone lose with the characters created by Fleming? They are all rich in texture, have super-human attributes as well as flaws, and the villains always have an exploitable flaw that the hero can manipulate and outwit.

Originally staged in London’s West End, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” set records for long runs in one theatre. Unfortunately, that success did not cross the pond well. On Broadway, the show closed in less than a year with one national tour developing from that. Possibly reasons might be the English humor and lines that only someone that with knowledge of British terms and foods might know. (Who knows what “bangers and mash,” “spotted dick,” “bubble and squeak” are?) And, there are other obscure terms for American audiences.

Bob Compton/Theatre in the Park

With the focus on appealing to younger audiences the TTIP timing might be an issue to re-think for future shows. “Annie” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” are geared to entertain toddlers through adults, but when a show begins at 8:30 and ends around 11 p.m. most youngsters are asleep. “The Music Man,” next up for TTIP, appeals to a little older crowd and the time should not be such an issue.

Those who know the story of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” understand the heart of the story — a single parent wanting the very best for his children. Their wish to own the celebrated auto puts a strain on their father and later jeopardized their grandfather. But, parents do make sacrifices for the happiness and well-being of their children. The magic car becomes a central figure in the story as it assists the family in their happy ending. The car, named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because that’s the noise its engine makes, has a mind of its own and will only start when approached and treated

Bob Compton/Theatre in the Park

politely with the word “please.” Chitty seems to know when the children need something extraordinary and delivers.

And all good children’s stories needs a villain. In this case, the funny tandem of the Baron and Baroness lead a group of villains, but they do not really scare anyone. And then there is the dreaded Childcatcher who most certainly does elicit fear. It’s too bad that more of those characters are not in the opening act. They are fun and scary.

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” presents challenges and opportunities. The challenges are the create the car that remains a central piece of the show. After that, the costumes, staging, choreography, hair styles, lighting and sound are integral for the success of this show. The production team did a good job in crafting the show and making it flow so well.

Bob Compton/Theatre in the Park

Production Team for “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is: Julie Ewing, Director; Lana C Jensen, Choreographer; Michelle Allen McIntire, Musical Director/Conductor/Accompanist; Fishing Lion Theatre Company, Costume Designer; Cheryl Singers, Props Designer; John Hollan, Hair and Make-up Designer; Phillip Schroeder, Scenic Designer; Sai Rupp, Lighting Designer; Tyler Nissen, Lead Lighting Designer; John Prokop, Sound Designer; Josh Koan, Lead Sound Designer; Mitch Simmons, Stage Manager; Matthew W Pollock, Asst. Stage Manager; Brittany Becker, Asst. Stage Manager.

Bob Compton/Theatre in the Park

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” cast is: Caractacus Potts, Tyler Walker; Jeremy Potts, Creighton Smith-Allaire; Jemima Potts, Emma Andrews; Grandpa Potts/Adult Ensemble, Andrew Ramaley; Truly Scrumptious, Fran Opheim; Baron Bomburst/Lord Scrumptious, Graham Fairleigh; Baroness Bomburst/Mrs. Phillips, Nancy Seeman; Goran/Vulgarian, Jay Coombes; Boris/Vulgarian, Jackson Dorris; Mr. Coggins/Toymaker/Turkey Farmer/Adult Ensemble, Don Leonard; Junkman/Childcatcher/Adult Ensemble, Evan Phillips; Villager/Child Ensemble/Stephen, JJ Briscoe; Villager/Child Ensemble, Jackson Underwood; Villager/Child Ensemble/Toby/Boys Solo, Jonah Cartwright; Villager/Child Ensemble/Bamboo Dancer/Inventor, Jacob Jackson; Villager/Child Ensemble/Bamboo Dancer, Maya Welde; Villager/Child Ensemble/Soldier, Michael Bell; Villager/Child Ensemble/Marta, Ella Bentley; Villager/Child Ensemble/Susan, Riglee Bryson; Villager/Child Ensemble, Tess Tappan; Villager/Child Ensemble, Eva Smith;

Bob Compton/Theatre in the Park

Villager/Child Ensemble/Greta, Olivia Loepp; Villager/Adult Ensemble/Bamboo Dancer, Phoebe Mock; Villager/Adult Ensemble/Bamboo Dancer, Georgia Trent; Villager/Adult Ensemble/Bamboo Dancer/Inventor, John Oldroyd; Villager/Adult Ensemble/Bamboo Dancer/Inventor, Morgan Ball; Villager/Adult Ensemble – Amelia Clark; Villager/Adult Ensemble – Paige Boomer; Villager/Adult Ensemble/Bambo Dancer/Inventor – Declan Franey; Villager/Adult Ensemble/Inventor – Ryan Russell; Villager/Adult Ensemble/Bamboo Dancer, Reily Harker; Villager/Adult Ensemble, Alice Scott; Villager/Adult Ensemble, Tyler Harper; Villager/Adult Ensemble/Inventor/Soldier, Stewart Jackson.

Bob Compton/Theatre in the Park

The “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” orchestra is led by Michelle Allen McIntire: Conductor/Music Director. Members of the orchestra are: Iona DeWalt, keyboard; Rachael Rule, keyboard; Bill Wood, electric bass; Joel McCoy, drum set & auxiliary percussion; Kaytee Dietrich, piccolo, flute, B-flat clarinet, alto saxophone; David D. McIntire, B-flat clarinet, E-flat clarinet, bass clarinet; Anne Sneller, English horn, oboe; Andrea Rogers, trumpet, cornet; Nick Kashka, trumpet, cornet; Rebecca Smith, French horn; Lee Finch, trombone; Chloe McIntire: music intern.

More information on “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and other TTIP shows can be found on the Theatre in the Park website.

Tags: Theatre in the Park, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” review, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

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