I always forget how crazy CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is until I see the movie or watch an adaptation of the play. Ian Fleming (the author who invented James Bond) wrote the tale in 1964, and it was a serialized novel that came out all at once in three parts. Most people know this for the 1968 film starring Dick Van Dyke which was ironically produced by Bond film impresario Albert R. Broccoli. This is the story of a car owned by a whimsical inventor and his children who will do just about anything as long as you say PLEASE and mean it. Chitty floats, flies and does all sorts of fantastical feats without hesitation. She’s the original CHRISTINE if you’re a Stephen King fan, a damage-proof living car with a sentient conscience. As if the car wasn’t crazy enough, the story is about a couple of agents from a country called Vulgaria who came to acquire Chitty for their Baron’s birthday. They somewhat succeed, and the whole cast ends up in this strange foreign land where children are forbidden Oh, and there’s a hidden love story here between a single father, a confectioner’s daughter, and two jumping kids lots of school to take on this adventure.
MAIN STREET THEATER is known in Houston as a premier company providing year-round children’s theater. These productions are very well done and offer children the chance to enjoy a stage production that is entirely intended for them. No one does it better here in town, and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG continues the great tradition of providing quality content for the youngest. The acting, production values, and beautiful setting at MATCH’s Midtown Houston facility all blend together beautifully.
The acting company is strong and there are hardly any missteps in the entire cast. Brock Hatton takes on the role of Caractacus Potts’ mad professor and offers a heartfelt delivery combined with a melodious baritone for any of his numbers. Aili Maeve plays Truly Scrumptious with just the right amount of sass and also provides the strongest voice in the series. Both kids are brought to life by Gracie Stamey and Sophia Horwath who bring energy and likability to spare. The entire cast understands the material and seems equally aware of their audience. The pacing is fast and the actors keep things clear even when the darker sides of the story slip in. I thoroughly enjoyed the comedic performances of Michael Chiavone, Whitney Zagarine, Camryn Nunley, Tyler Rooney and Matt Hurt who are all tasked with playing the “bad guys” in the play. All offer a dry, witty sense of humor and pair it with broad, physical comedy that delights children.
Torsten Louis provided a nice workhorse of a set that allows the story to drift easily from the English countryside to the Vulgaria. Alexander Schumann provides projections that allow Chitty to look like she’s flying after all. The physical design elements carry the actors’ fantasy into the production as a whole. The company uses practical and simple effects throughout, and it works to create the right amount of magic without ever scaring young viewers.
CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG is a perfect summer dish for kids, and also for those of us who love a rather crazy car story from the creator of James Bond. It’s a treat to see him here at the MATCH in Midtown, especially with such a solid cast in a great production. Shows are offered mostly in matinees on weekends, so you can enjoy a quick show and lunch any day in the area.
Tickets for CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG are available through the Main Street Theater website. All performances are held at the MATCH center in Midtown Houston. Masks are not required for performances, although they are encouraged for audience members. The entire show lasts an hour and a half with a twenty minute intermission. This is a version of the musical cut for young audiences, so it moves quickly. Snacks are available for purchase at the MATCH concession stands.