By Martie Thompson
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a fantasmagorically fun family musical now being performed at Alhambra Theatre and Dining — and the star of the show is a car. Not an ordinary car, but a car that floats and flies and feeds the imagination of young siblings Jeremy and Jemima Potts, ably portrayed by child actors Trey Murphy and Tatum Matthews.
For those familiar with the 1968 film by the same name, an understandable question would be, how does the Alhambra stage a play with a magical car? And the answer is, quite well. Design and construction of Chitty was the work of Ian Black and it must be seen to be believed.
Performers Shain Stroff, as single father Caractacus Potts, and Jennifer Medure, as Truly Scrumptious, provide the glue which holds the story together: the eccentric and loving three-person Potts family teams up with the beautiful daughter of candy maker Lord Scrumptious. Adventure follows when the Potts children become enamored of an old car that won multiple Gran Prix races in its heyday. They urge their father to buy the car for them, which he does by selling one of his many crazy inventions. They name the car “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” for the odd noises made by the engine and discover it can float like a boat and sprout wings to fly like a plane.
Trouble — and hilarity — ensues when the evil Baron Bomburst (amusingly portrayed by Kurt McCall) and Baroness Bomburst (uproariously portrayed by the extremely talented Lisa Valdini) desire the magic car for themselves. The second act of the play takes place in the Baron and Baroness’ fictional kingdom of Vulgaria. The Potts family, along with nutty Grandpa Potts (Kenneth Uible) and Truly Scrumptious have to outwit the dastardly Baron and Baroness and their evil henchman, the Child Catcher, creepily portrayed by Pierre Tannous. Stealing each scene in which he appeared, Tannous embodied his menacing role to the point of even sniffing for children to kidnap in the audience.
With a score by the Sherman Brothers that conjures summer fun and entertaining choreography by frequent Alhambra choreographer James Kinney, the show is enjoyable for the whole family. In particular, the number “Toot Sweets,” when Caractacus Potts is trying to convince Lord Scrumptious to buy his musical candy, is a delightful candy confection come to life with pastel ladies’ dresses and graceful, swirling dancing. The title song is an endearing and familiar earworm that audience members will be humming for days after the show.
Chef DeJuan has crafted a special menu for this family friendly show, to include starters of house salad or a smokehouse sausage with potato salad and entrees of trigger fish and chips, spaghetti and meatballs, roasted pork loin with baked mac and cheese or roasted summer vegetables with baked beans. Save room for a delightful berry trifle or strawberry rhubarb buttermilk pie for dessert.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” will be on stage at Alhambra Theatre and Dining through July 29. Visit www.alhambrajax.com to buy tickets.
Photo courtesy Alhambra Theatre and Dining.