REVIEW: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

By Charmaine Nuguid.
Edited by ManilaForKids.

I will admit that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang wasn’t on top of our family theater watching list this season. I don’t have parents, aunts/uncles or older cousins who wax nostalgic about the movie.

But there has been a resurgence of Roald Dahl in my household as my Young One lapped up as many RD books he could find and I had been forced to purchase both versions of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory over the last 12 months.  So when the opportunity to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at Resorts World Manila this weekend came up, it turned out to be a serendipitous godsend.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

 

Researching the movie on Youtube surfaced clips that were reminiscent of the Gene Wilder chocolate movie, with the improbable floating and flying titular car titillating the Young One’s curiosity.

The theme song was catchy, and armed with this initial knowledge, our little family sat in the Newport Theater not exactly sure how they would pull off the fantastical elements on stage. Though Ian Fleming wrote the story, it was Roald Dahl that wrote the screenplay which explains the similarity of the feel with the Wonka movie.

The musical loosely follows the 1968 movie, although this staging seems to have been updated to cater to modern sensibilities.

The Story

Caractacus Potts is a poor widowed inventor with twins Jemima and Jeremy, who lives with their grandfather. The children seem to be “home schooled” in a garage, where they fall in love with an old aero-engine race car from 1910.

They meet a woman named Truly Scrumptious, and the first departure from the movie comes in as she has short hair, trousers, and a motorbike instead of long hair, a gown and her own car. She goes on to make hasty accusations about Potts parenting since homeschooling wasn’t a thing men did then.

The children later pressure their father to buy the old car after it came under threat, and the inventor sets about selling his inventions to finance the purchase.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Image c/o Resorts World Manila

At first his candy machine seemed a sure hit, with Truly advocating for his behalf to her father Lord Scrumptious until it turned dogs loose on the Scrumptious candy factory. He aims to sell a haircutting machine at the town fair but it was a disaster. However, fortune turned and his machine found usefulness in another industry (turkey feather plucking).

In the meantime, across the sea in the country of Vulgaria, the Baron and his child-hating Baroness are obsessed with finding an old race car that had beaten their own years back, and they aim to reverse engineer technology in order to reclaim lost honor. They do this by sending spies Boris and Goran to England to get the car, who traced it to the Potts family.

Review Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Image c/o Resorts World Manila

The spies witness the car’s new technology, as the Potts and Truly take the car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the beach, and escape from Vulgarian pirates. They mistake the elderly Potts as the inventor. They kidnap Grandpa Potts and whisk him away on an airship, with the spies “swimming” to catch up. The Potts family and Truly give chase as the CCBB turns into an airplane and head to Vulgaria.

In Vulgaria, the Baron pressures Grandpa to update his Vulgarian car which Grandpa then fakes. When the Potts arrive, they find that children are banned and a Childcatcher is deployed to capture all children. The Toy Maker is the only citizen that keeps the Baron at bay by creating toys whilst hiding the remaining children in the sewers. As Caractacus works with the underground Vulgarians to rescue Grandpa, the Childcatcher captures Jemima and Jeremy.

The Toy Maker brings Truly, Caractacus and the Underground into the castle as part of his toy presentation for the Baron’s birthday, lulling the Baron and Baroness with song until they were tied and the captured prisoners freed. The children were once again allowed in Vulgaria and the expanded Potts family (Truly Scrumptious would become the new Mrs. Potts) returned to England to have new adventures.

Review Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Image c/o Resorts World Manila

Songs

The songs, on the whole, are not easy to sing along to and in case you love musicals because of the songs, one may have to settle for the theme song at first. However, my Young One was able to latch on to at least a few gems such as Toot Sweet, Truly Scrumptious and Act English.

It may be good to watch this with someone else in your family that had seen the original movie and loved it in the hopes that they remember the lyrics. If not, and you’re coming into this a newbie just like us, you and your family will be fine as the visual elements more than make up for the show’s sometimes indiscernible lyrics.

Choreography, costumes and production design

Choreography, costumes and production design were breathtaking, and all together will keep young and old engaged for the length of the show. The scene where the Vulgarians were plotting in their HQ around an elevated boardroom table was remarkable, which even my Young One noted was an amazing way to depict an otherwise boring boardroom meeting.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Image c/o Resorts World Manila

The scene where the Potts were escaping Vulgarian pirates may require a bit more imagination, however the airship chase/Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flying sequence was delightful in its approach to this anticipated highlight scene.

Characters

The audience, particularly the children, loved the spy characters Boris and Goran, and it feels that liberties were taken to ensure that this staging was adapted to Filipino audiences through them.  The childish Baron becomes the misunderstood villain that your children may root for redemption (“someone who loves a teddy can’t be that bad”), while the Childcatcher remains the villain who keeps kids on their toes.

Parents/adults may have to be prepared for the Baron and Baroness number in the second half, which borders on inappropriate for younger kids. On a technical note, the execution of the Doll on a Music Box sequence didn’t match the movie’s precise robotic movements and maybe the actors can work on this for later.

The musical’s central message about living for family, and the teamwork that families can have to overcome challenges and face adventures, is a welcome message in these times. 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Image c/o Resorts World Manila

Ian Fleming wrote the book for his then minor son, and the movie being produced by James Bond veterans and Roald Dahl made me realize that CCBB is actually a wholesome James Bond story with its lead male Caractacus Potts as a conflated James Bond and Q with a family to live for.

Truly Scrumptious, despite her updating, becomes the titular Mother figure as the musical continues the thinking that a male lead needed a love interest and that single parent households are not desirable for the kids in the long-term (Grandpa was not a good enough second parent). In typical musical fashion, Truly and Caractacus fall in love in a day, and this remains the most fantastical element of the show (after all, in real life we have floating cars now prototyped somewhere).

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is visually stunning live family entertainment, and as long as different kinds of families are aware of what to expect from a story that came from the 1960s then it will be a good show for kids to see.

Show Dates and Venue

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang opened on October 21, 2017 at the Newport and runs until November 12, 2017 (Thursdays-Sundays), at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of Resorts World Manila.

The show is recommended for all ages.

Tickets are available on Ticketworld and range from Php 1,076-4,088
An exclusive promo is available for ManilaForKids email subscribers and for members of our closed Facebook group. Sign up today!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

About the author

Charmaine is a theater loving mom of an aspiring performer. The family has just come back to the Philippines after a few years as an expatriate in a city with minimal theater and is profoundly grateful for the great variety of live entertainment in Manila. She works in social and environmental sustainability and advocates to align the Philippines with global frameworks and practices.

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