Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s holiday offering is the fanciful, frolicking, fun story of an amazing car which starts out as junk and winds up as the awesome star of the show, resplendent with all the accoutrement that dreams are made of.
Oh, yes, there are humans in the cast – very capable human actors, singers and dancers of all ages – but anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that Chitty is the real star is just tooting a different horn.
This is the story of two children – Jeremy and Jemima – of a dreamer father, Caractacus Potts who dabbles in questionable inventions which seldom go right, and the children’s love affair with an old, broken down, 1910 racing car, which they plead with their father to save from the junk man and refurbish her to glory.
While doing so, father meets the daughter of a rich candy maker who is Truly Scrumptious (in name and to him) and sells a candy creation of his to her father to pay for the transformation from junker to winner.
The despicable baron, who rules nearby Vulgaria, loves toys so much he has outlawed them for anyone other than himself, is determined to win the Grand Prix auto race. His maniacal wife equally hates children so much she imprisons all in their realm and employs a Child Catcher to enforce the order.
The baron contracts with two spies to capture Chitty’s inventor to build a car for him. However, the bumbling duo take Grandpa Potts by error who is given a very short period of time to come up with a new car or meet an undesirable fate.
A local toymaker steps in to help by sneaking the romantic couple into the palace in time to save Grandpa, all the children and make sure the evil pair receive their comeuppance before the family flies off over the rainbow in the magical Chitty.
Odd things arrive in odd packages – Chitty is the same way – it started out as a simple story, “ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Magical Car” written for the author’s son. The oddity is that the author is the famous creator of the James Bond books, Ian Fleming.
The magical car drove from print to the 1968 British musical film loosely based on Fleming’s children’s tale. Chitty made the trip to the stage in London’s West End when Richard and Robert Sherman wrote music and lyrics with book by Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick in 2002.
It was a long drive to Tacoma Musical Playhouse, but the car showed up with a bang under the able direction of John Douglas Rake and it hasn’t lost one iota of its magic on the ride.
TMP’s creative director, with the aid of the backstage staff, has developed a cohesive musical production on a magical note.
Musical Director Jeffrey Stvrtecky wields his baton for the TMP Orchestra which includes Judy Lanz, Roxane Hreha and Diz Carroll on reeds; Mark Willis on French horn; Rick Leffler, Peter Nelson and Jason Garcia on Trumpet; Mick Crosby blows trombone; Taylor Whatley strums string bass Iris McBride does percussion/drums; and Megan Worthen is an OrchExtra.
Kudos to Tech Director/Set Designer Bruce Haasl, not only for his magnificent magical flying car, but for the highly workable and imaginative fragmented set.
John Chenault’s lighting design creates the perfect atmosphere for the audience to feel Chitty’s lift-off during a thunder and lightning storm.
Jocelyn Fowler, Margot Webb and Grace Stone have out-done themselves in dressing the huge cast in perfect costumes.
And the cast, as usual, is huge – with 18 in the Ensemble which includes: Diane Lee Bozzo (also Violet), Sammy Cattin, Eric Cuestas-Thompson (also Sid), Addison Daniels, Cassandra Dechant, Keoni Dilay, Tyler Dobies, Ariel Duchesne, James Fesalbon (also Coggins), Anthony Figueroa, Nick Fitzgerald, Francesca Guecia, Kathy Kluska (also Dance Captain), Jenna McRill, Haley Meier, Kellen O’Brien, Hanna Shreaves and Corey Thompson. There are also seven in the Children’s Ensemble including: Nastasjja Bach, Radek Bach, Darby Fitzgerald, Madeline Herbert, William Herbert, Emily Saletan and Tavaunyai Thomas.
Both Ensembles are excellent in their jobs – they act like seasoned theatre veterans – whether young or old; they all hit their marks and their notes and move the story along in its magical fashion.
Jake Atwood is a sleazy villain as the Child Catcher. Atwood’s costume resembles the rat he plays with a rodent-like demeanor.
Nick Clawson’s charming voice lends reality to the Toymaker who is a really nice guy who wants to help free the children from their lonely cells.
George McClure is the deliciously comical candy maker, Lord Scrumptious. McClure plays him as a brusque magnate who stops short in his tracks when he hears Caractacus’s candy invention to gather the hero into his fold.
John Miller is an excellent Grandpa Potts with a Baron von Munchausen propinquity for concocting heroic stories about his most improbable lifestyle.
Gunnar Ray is young son Jeremy Potts. This talented youth acts and sings equally well as the more seasoned members of the cast.
Amelia Stiles plays his pert sister Jemima Potts charmingly with a toss of lustrous red hair and a smiling face, Stiles matches Gunnar’s ability.
Summer Mays plays Jemima in alternate performances.
John Kelleher is the comically evil Baron Bomburst. Kelleher plays his role with child-like greed, anticipation and excitement.
Dana Johnson is his wife Baroness Bomburst. Johnson is a sexy counterpart to the self-indulgent baron. The audience would boo her if it wasn’t laughing so hard at her character’s antics.
Michael Syverson is Boris and Brittany Henderson is Goran. It is hard to separate this hilarious pair of would-be evil doers. Although each has built a different character, they act as each other’s shadow. Both resemble the silent clowns of early films who brought forth comedy with body moves, except this duo use their voices as well.
These two duos of dastardly duos have a couple of duos that are delightfully hilarious.
Allyson Jacobs-Lake is the perfect Truly Scrumptious. Jacobs-Lake is gifted with a wonderful singing voice; the best in this production. She has created a perfect Truly who is feisty, albeit lady-like, and exudes her affection for the role.
Stephen Bucheit is Caractacus Potts. Bucheit looks the part, acts the part and sings the part to perfection. His attraction to Truly is matched only by his affection for his children and his pride in his accomplishment with Chitty.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” continues at Tacoma Musical Playhouse at 7116 Sixth Avenue, just east of Jackson, through December 20, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
For reservations or more information, call the box office at (253) 565-6867 or go online to www.tmp.org.
You may have seen the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which was filled with wonderful music – as is the play; good acting, singing and dancing – as is the play and excellent special effects – as is the play.
The only thing the film doesn’t have that the TMP production does is live actors. It’s all happening right now – right in front of you. There is nothing else like it in the world.
Don’t miss out on this truly scrumptious holiday event as suitable for old as it is for young.