It’s not just a car; it’s magic

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Tim Lawson)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

November 28 – December 22

After taking flight in other capital cities, the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” car has soared into QPAC’s Lyric Theatre with promise of fun for all the family. And, as a show featuring singing, dancing, children, dogs and a flying car, how could it not deliver?

Like the “Toot Sweet” sung of during Act One, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a colourful, saccharine overload. The comparison to “Mary Poppins” is immediately apparent, from the catchy music to the stunning setting and costume design.

Operatic tenor David Hobson stars as Caractacus Potts, a widowed inventor who overhauls a dilapidated car into a fantasmagorical flying machine for his precociously peppy children. A childlike Baron (Shane Bourne) desires the car for his birthday so his child-hating, Cruella De Villesque Baroness (Jennifer Vuletic) charges two bumbling agents to England to steal it from the Potts clan, which also features Truly Scrumptious (Rachel Beck), daughter of a local confectionery magnate.

David Hobson is a charming Caractacus and his operatic skills allow his songs to truly shine. More than this, however, is his perfect English aplomb, in manner as much as voice, which brings a real likeability to his performance. And Rachael Beck is perfectly perky in her role, shining particularly in her duet with Hobson, “Doll On A Music Box”.

The star, however, is the car, transformed from a rundown junky rust-bucket into a shiny, floating and flying machine. Indeed, as the tag line promises, ‘it’s not just a car; it’s magic’. And it is truly magical to see Chitty and her passengers twisting through the starlit night sky. So much so, that, when a young girl near me stood clapping hands above her head with glee when Chitty appeared for a well-deserved bow, the child in me wanted to join her.

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For all of its colour and hyperactivity, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is very much a pantomime-like adventure, perfect for the festive season. Contributing to the vibrancy of its visual feast is a slew of cartoonish villains, particularly the Marilyn Mansonish child catcher. Tyler Coppin plays this fairy tale villain with such delight that the children cheering for Chitty are also booing during the childcatcher’s curtain call.

Shane Bourne and Jennifer Vuletic revel in the cartoonish parody of imperial Germany, evoking snorts of laughter from adults in some places. And George Kapiniaris and Todd Goddard bring vaudevillian style humour to their espionage, with their clumsy antics. In all instances, however, performances are enhanced by a striking technical design that brings the story to life through imaginative sets and costumes, particularly in the Tim Burton-like vision of Vulgaria.

For all of its energy and wonder, dramatically, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is very much a Christmas pantomime style of production. Act Two, in particular, drags along with songs such as “The Bombie Samba” contributing little to the narrative. Still, the show is filled with memorable tunes, including its catchy title song, which captures the essence of the fun that is “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and reminds us why we love our fine four fendered friend.

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