The regional premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley is a truly scrumptious experience.
The musical, based on the 1968 film, was adapted for the stage by Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick. Music is by Richard M. Sherman with lyrics by Robert B. Sherman. It is the imaginative tale of an incredible car that floats and flies and takes its occupants--an inventor, his two children, and a female acquaintance--on fantastic adventures. They travel to Vulgaria, where the rulers of the land are obsessed with toys but children are banned.
At Hale Centre Theatre, director John J. Sweeney and his production team have created a sumptuous, confectionary delight. They have successfully managed to pay homage to many of the most iconic moments of the film while at the same time creating something entirely new.
The choreography by Jennifer Hill Barlow is both crisp and imaginative without drawing too much attention to itself. The fluid manner in which the staging and choreography work together around the set pieces without seeming crowded on the small, circular stage constantly amazes. Highlights include the colorful, high-energy numbers "Toot Sweets" and "Me Ol' Bamboo."
Set designer Kacey Udy, technical engineering manager Rob Kinmont, and their teams have designed and built props and set pieces that are marvelous to behold. These include inventions first introduced in the film, such as a breakfast-making machine and a candy-making machine, as well as multiple working vehicles, including the eponymous car itself.
The costume design by Tamara Clayton, hair and make-up design by Krissa Lent, and lighting design by Spencer Brown are especially strong in this production. There is a historical feel in the scenes that are most grounded in reality, but the more fantastical scenes are colorful and whimsical.
A key decision made by the production team was to make a bold design choice for the Vulgarians that is far removed from both the film and past stage productions. The opulent and dark, yet vibrantly colored sets and costumes at once suggest both 18th century French and contemporary emo style. This change in design paved the way for new interpretations of the baron and baroness roles.
Paul Cartwright as Baron Bomburst (double cast with Kyle Olsen) and Brooklynn Pulver as Baroness Bomburst (double cast with Ali Bennett) have both wowed on the Hale Centre Theatre stage in the past, but their performances here are simply astonishing in their detail and craft. They are completely believable as ninnies who rule the land, and they are incredibly hilarious as they do so. The absolute high point of the show, both in design and performance, is their duet "Chu-Chi Face."
Other actors of note include Ames Bell as Caractacus Potts (double cast with David Smith) and Brittany Sanders as Truly Scrumptious (double cast with Megan Heaps). Both have lovely singing voices and play their characters with vitality. Will Riches (double cast with Will Breinholt) and Olivia Smith-Driggs (double cast with AbiGail Edwards) never miss a beat or a note in their laudable portrayals of siblings Jeremy and Jemima.
Hale Centre Theatre has done it again with another spectacular regional premiere. Any fan of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would be a fool to miss this production.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang plays through April 13, 2013. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.halecentretheatre.org.