Give thanks for live theater
Maui OnStage presents Maui and Hawaii premiere of holiday favorite ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’
As a child I used to watch “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” on television every Thanksgiving. Its book and the Dick Van Dyke film were to Generation X what Harry Potter is to millennials.
In 1964, at the height of success for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and the Sean Connery film adaptations, Fleming decided to write a different type of action adventure for his son, Caspar. His inspiration came from a race car designed by an early 20th-century Indianapolis 500 driver and automotive engineer, Count Louis Vorow Zborowski, who named his first car Chitty Bang Bang and subsequent versions Chitty Bang Bang 2 through 4.
There are many similarities in Bond novels and “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car,” but even more were added to the Albert R. Broccoli-produced movie version, including the familiar tunes by Richard and Robert Sherman (“Mary Poppins”).
In the 1968 film and stage version, which will be Maui OnStage’s holiday offering, presented Nov. 24 through Dec. 10 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku, Chitty’s eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts, has several extraordinary Bond-like gadgets and a Soviet-like enemy, the fictional eastern empire of Vulgaria, ruled by Baron Bomburst. Potts also has a love interest and female sidekick with a pun name, Truly Scrumptious, the daughter of candy magnate Lord Scrumptious.
If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, Jeremy (Kanoa Gorring) and Jemima Potts (Dakota Welch) are the frequently truant children of Caractacus (Ricky Jones) who prefer to play in an old race car at Mr. Coggins’ (Reuben Carrion) scrap yard than go to school.
After learning that their beloved toy will be melted in the fiery furnace, they plead for their single dad to rescue the car. Potts sets about restoring it and all soon discover that Chitty has unexplained magical properties, including the ability to float and fly. Trouble occurs when the evil Baron (Keith Welch) desires the magic car for himself and the family joins forces with Truly (Sara Jelley) and their batty Grandpa Potts (Dale Button) to outwit the dastardly Vulgarians.
“It’s a piece I’ve always wanted to take on. I loved the movie as a kid and, of course, the ‘fantasmic’ car,” says Director David Kaye.
I asked Jelley if she had any “Chitty” childhood memories.
“I loved the doll in the music box. It’s such an iconic scene,” she said. “I loved her costume and always fantasized about wearing that doll outfit. I never thought that would happen because I was tomboyish as a child, but now I will.”
After Jelley played Mary Poppins in 2016, I wondered if it was difficult for her to separate the similar characters.
“I’m working on making Truly brighter vocally and trying to let go of Mary. She’s not a nanny with lessons to give like Mary, she’s there to help and love the kids and she ultimately falls in love.”
Jelley estimated that she has seen the film 15 times. I asked if the songs were easy to learn since she was so familiar with them.
“Yes, I knew most of them by heart from watching the movie so many times. My dad used to sing ‘Chu-Chi Face’ to my sister and me when we were little girls,” she shared.
The child cast members have some favorite moments too. Ten-year-old Gorring said the first time he saw the film was at a sleepover with his friends last year.
“My favorite part was when they all sang ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.’ “
I asked what his favorite scene to perform was.
“The first scene,” Gorring said. “I like playing in the car at the junkyard like we’re driving in the Grand Prix. That’s a really fun part.”
Twelve-year-old Welch said her favorite part of being in the show is “getting to work with everyone,” and singing the musical number “Teamwork.”
“I just saw the movie for the first time a few months ago,” said Welch. “I love when Potts sings ‘Hushabye Mountain’ to his children, which is really nice. He makes all these wonderful inventions for his kids. It’s so sweet. Most parents don’t do things like that.”
“At the holiday time, we specifically want to produce something that families can enjoy,” says Maui OnStage Executive Director Alexis Dascoulias. “We seek to provide the full, family holiday experience — where everyone can sit together, laugh together, sing together and share a live-theater experience. ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ is just that. All generations will enjoy it and want to sing along. This is an opportunity to unplug — no technology involved, just sharing a great piece of theater and a family friendly story.”
Baldwin High School Performing Arts Learning Center and Baldwin Theatre Guild opened its season last weekend with two wonderfully written one-act comedies performed capably by 21 students. The entire cast of both plays has a great gift for stage comedy.
Although the farcical murder mystery parody, “No Body to Murder” by Edith Weiss, was very amusing, it was the second act play, “Check, Please!” by Jonathan Rand, which was uproariously funny.
Twelve brief vignettes present first dates gone horribly awry. One of those bad dates includes Alexis Ong as an emotional Chicago Bears fan trying to follow the game on her cell phone. Another involves a fed up Dominique Turner dealing with the phobia-ridden Shandon Obregon who is afraid of moist foods, the color purple, cats and peanut butter sticking to the roof of his mouth.
Diether Dadiz and Erin Tsue present an uncomfortable first date. Tsue begins to schedule dates two through six mere seconds after they’ve introduced themselves. An avid planner, Tsue wishes to ensure “a few healthy-sized dates” before he meets her parents and they get engaged, but does offer options for the name of their first child.
Perhaps the funniest of performances is that of Lauryn Ige as an unstable woman with multiple personalities who has neglected to take her meds. Much to the horror of her date, played by Jaysen Giroux, Ige becomes her mother, father, a little girl, an angry woman and, eventually, a wild monkey in a hysterical, lengthy rant. The rapid pace implemented by Director Linda Carnivale is a big reason why both plays are so funny in this fast-moving production loaded with laughs.
• Baldwin Performing Arts concludes “No Body to Murder” and “Check, Please!” Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Loudon Mini-Theatre on the Baldwin High School campus. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for students and $3 for children 10 and younger and are available at the box office 45 minutes before showtime. To reserve tickets, call 727-3297.
In another fast-paced comedy, the cast of Seabury Hall’s “The Wanna-Be Gentleman” skillfully captures the style necessary for Moliere’s 300-year-old play. Performances of note include Carver Glomb in the lead as the obtuse Monsieur Jourdain, Shelby Ferrier as his philosophy instructor, Carl Molinaro as Dorante, Jacob Akana as Covielle and Danny Judge as Cleonte. All display strong ability in large-scale farcical movement and an accomplished command of Moliere’s verse.
The always impressive Camille Erdman shines in the role of Dormiane with a gracefulness combined with the absurdity intended for her regal character. The most concrete performance is that of Marley Mehring as Madame Jourdain, Glomb’s aggravated and unwavering wife. Mehring best epitomizes that a quality interpretation can make a 300-year-old role seem modern and relatable. Director Todd Van Amburgh and costume designer Andre Morissette bring a colorful playfulness to “The Wanna-Be Gentleman,” incorporating balloons and mingling 18th-century fashion with 1960s Camelot stylishness. This fun-filled farce both charms and, figuratively, flies by.
• Seabury Hall Performing Arts concludes Moliere’s “The Wanna-Be Gentleman.” Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center in Makawao. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.seaburyhall.org.