Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Broadway Series South
Raleigh Memorial Auditiorium
Through April 5
The City of Raleigh's Broadway Series South opened Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Tuesday night in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium for a six-day run. The script for this touring version was adapted by Ray Roderick (who also directs) from the stage adaptation by Jeremy Sams of the 1968 movie musical (music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman), which was based on the 1964 children's book by Ian Fleming, until then known entirely for his racy spy novels: Bond, James Bond. As might be surmised from this list, considerable devolution has occurred from the original, delightful, story featuring a marvelous car that can swim and fly—but will start only if you say please.
The stage effects, especially the flying car, are well done, though all the mechanisms make the stage space shallow and crowded, diminishing what small glory there is in the dances. The human cast includes lots of children, who are amazingly good, and is led by Steve Wilson, who is warm and funny as Caractacus Potts. The most effective scenes, visually, take place among the crazy inventions in Caractacus Potts' home—otherwise, the sets and props are neither as refined nor as magical as what one sees on the mental screen while reading.
This show is far more likely to please those who loved the movie than those who loved the book. For one thing, it would help here to know the songs by heart, because the awful sound quality—tinny and overdriven—precludes understanding many of the words. The balance between the singers and the orchestra is seriously off. Only in the one unaccompanied song does it become clear that there are people on stage with good singing voices. Since the lengthy production is more a series of song-and-dance routines than a dramatic series of escalating incidents, this is a real problem. However, you could enjoy the show if you are among those able to whistle, hum, clap and sing along with the numbers, as hundreds happily did on opening night.