Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” musical based on popular family film at Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is Family-friendly Entertainment Running the Gamut from Slapstick to Serious at Candlelight.

Reviewed by Tom Jones, August 13, 2015

Photo credit Garland Photography.
Photo credit Garland Photography.
The car flies! Well, not quite “flies,” but it does rise up from the stage – much to the delight and amusement of everyone in the theatre. The car itself is quite amazing – a terrific highlight to its production namesake “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” now on stage at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown.

Special effects have long been used by movies. Now, they are becoming wonderfully commonplace on the stage! We saw Peter Pan fly away with Wendy on the stage at Candlelight. We saw Mary Poppins fly away from the stage at Boulder Dinner Theatre. Now we have an entire car that is airborne, occupied by David Wygant, Alisha Winter Hayes, Rebecca Hyde and Brekken Wald as they fly from England to Vulgaria – and back! Wygant plays Caractacus Potts, the car’s inventor. Alisha Winter Hayes is Truly Scrumptious, a delightfully self-assured woman who is willing to get on board. Hyde and Wald play Pott’s children with no fear of where the amazing car just might take them.

The show did take a little time for me to become enchanted by the goings-on! The script seems to be two shows. The first act introduces us to the Potts family, to the wonderful Truly Scrumptious, and tells us that Potts is a somewhat daffy inventory, who has yet to make it big. The second act is more interesting, as Potts and group fly the car-plane to Vulgaria, a mythical country whose loony Baron is trying to steal Pott’s car and other inventions.

This is the regional premiere of Richard and Robert Sherman’s musical adventure based on the 1968 movie, a version of an Ian Fleming book for children. The premise is that Potts is a kind-hearted but down-on-his luck father of two who has terrific ideas,with little financial success. . Alisha Winter Hayes turns up as Truly Scrumptious, the motorized bicyclist who claims to know more than she does about engines. She is great fun and is quick to charm Pott’s children. Young stage actors are sometimes difficult to understand. Not so with Rebecca Hyde and Brekken Wald. They are delightful from the outset – each has a very good singing voice, stage presence, and speaking voice.

This is specially important in “Chitty,” as the audience included a large number of well-mannered young persons who appeared to be completely in love with the show – even when the evil “Childcatcher” appears in the second act with plans to capture every child in the dreadful country of Vulgaria. Markus Warren was in great form as the Childcatcher! His job is to pick up any children and to “send them away,” as the country’s Baron and his wife claim they hate children and have them banned from the country. Bob Hoppe became drenched in Candlelight’s “Singing in the Rain” and is back for more abuse as the goofy Baron. Alicia King is deliciously wicked as the Baroness Bomburst who claims that she hates “little things.”

There are many young persons in the cast who provide vitality to the production. Of the supporting cast adults, Scott McCoppin is especially endearing as The Toymaker in Vulgaria who makes toys only for the silly Baron, as children have all been exiled or are in hiding! Stephen Charles Turner is convincing as Grandpa Potts. Eric Heine and Jack Barton provide comedy relief as Vulgarian spies who are trying to hijack Potts’ ideas. They provide over-the-top slapstick, but their interaction with the audience is substantial, and the young people watched their every move!

The music is reminiscent of the Sherman brothers’ earlier “Mary Poppins,”and includes some fun pieces, “Toot Sweets” in the candy factory, “Hushabye Mountain” in the children’s bedroom, “Truly Scrumptious” at the countryside and seaside, and the always hummable “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

Sets are very good, as is the orchestra, conducted by Casey Cropp. Choreography by Alicia King is first rate, as are costumes by Judith Ernst. Melissa Swift-Sawyer is credited as Vocal Music Director – with excellent results! The show is staged and directed by Pat Payne who directed Candlelight’s recent hit, “Hairspray.”

I left the theater with my first-act concerns completely gone, as the ultimate tale of the importance of helping each other came through loud and clear, and I was humming the super “Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” all the way home!

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”
Where: Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
4747 Marketplace Drive, Johnstown
To September 13, 2015.
For Tickets: Box Office: 970/744-3747