I always forget how wacky CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is until I see the movie or see an adaptation of the play. Ian Fleming (the author who created James Bond) wrote the story back in 1964, and it was a serialized novel that came out in three parts at once. Most people know it from the 1968 film starring Dick Van Dyke, ironically produced by Bond film impresario Albert R. Broccoli. It’s the story of a car owned by a whimsical inventor and his kids, who will do basically anything as long as you say PLEASE and mean it. Chitty levitates, flies and does all sorts of amazing tricks without hesitation. She’s the original CHRISTINE if you’re a Stephen King fan, a living car that’s impervious to damage and has a sentient consciousness. As if the car wasn’t crazy enough, the story is about a couple of agents from a country called Vulgaria who have come to acquire Chitty for their baron’s birthday. They succeed somewhat, and the entire cast ends up in this strange foreign land where children are forbidden. Oh, and here’s a love story between a single father, a candy maker’s daughter, and two school-leaning kids Take This Adventure.
The MAIN STREET THEATER is known throughout Houston as a premiere company that offers great children’s theater year-round. These productions are very well done and offer children the opportunity to enjoy a stage production that is aimed directly at them. No one does it better here in town and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG continues the great tradition of providing quality content for the younger crowd. Acting, production values and a wonderful setting all blend beautifully at the MATCH facilities in Midtown Houston.
The acting company is strong and there is hardly a misstep in the entire cast. Brock Hatton takes on the demented professor role of Caractacus Potts, providing a candid performance combined with a melodic baritone for each of his numbers. Aili Maeve plays Truly Scrumptious with just the right amount of cheek and also provides the show’s strongest singing voice. The two children are brought to life by Gracie Stamey and Sophia Horwath, who bring energy and sympathy. The entire cast understands the material and also seems to be aware of their audience. The pace is fast and the actors keep things light, even when the darker sides of the story emerge. I really enjoyed the comical performances by Michael Chiavone, Whitney Zangarine, Camryn Nunley, Tyler Rooney and Matt Hurt, who are all tasked with playing the play’s “bad guys”. All offer a dry humor that is witty and combine it with a broad physical comedy that delights children.
Torsten Louis has provided a nice workhorse of a set that allows the story to veer slightly from the English countryside into Vulgaria. Alexander Schumann provides projections that make Chitty look like she’s actually flying. The physical design elements carry the whims of the actors into the production as a whole. Using practical and simple effects throughout, the company works to create the right amount of magic without ever startling younger viewers.
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is the perfect summertime treat for kids and also for those of us who like a pretty wacky car story from the creator of James Bond. It’s a treat to see here at the MATCH in Midtown, especially with such a strong cast in a sizable production. Shows are primarily offered as weekend matinees, so you can be in the area for a quick show and lunch in no time.
Tickets for CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG are available through the Main Street Theater website. All performances take place at the MATCH facility in Midtown Houston. Masks are not required for performances, although they are recommended for audiences. The entire show lasts an hour and a half, including a twenty-minute intermission. This is a young audience version of the musical, so it’s moving fast. Snacks are available at the MATCH concession stands.