There’s a certain amount of magic that goes into every theater production. But for its production of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which opens Thursday, Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre is pulling out all the stops to bring the musical’s titular car, which can both fly and act as a boat, to life.
For “Chitty,” the crew built a car that, though artistic director Jadd Davis said won’t look like it, is made almost entirely of wood.
Using various theater tricks like lighting and projection work, the musical will recreate the magical properties of the car as seen in the 1968 movie of the same name.
“We’re not actually able to physically fly the car in the Kroc space but we’re doing everything we can to suspend disbelief around that reality so we can have the real sense of stakes and adventure that goes into it,” Davis said.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” follows eccentric inventor Caractus Potts (Greg McCormick Allen), his children Jemima (Isabella Ferch) and Jeremy (Zachary Abshire), and the beautiful and rich Truly Scrumptious (Abby Anderson).
Jemima and Jeremy have become attached to an old car left in a garage and ask their father to buy it before a man from the junkyard purchases for scrap.
Potts can’t afford to, but he attempts to make money through his inventions, including a machine that creates candy that can be played like a flute and an automatic hair cutting machine.
Both attempts end poorly, al though in a series of events culminating in a song-and-dance act, Potts eventually makes enough money to buy the car and quickly sets to work overhauling it as only he can.
Once the car, named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang after the sound its engine makes, is up and running, the Potts and Scrumptious take a drive and have a picnic. It’s during this picnic that Potts tells his children and Scrumptious a story about the evil Baron Bomburst (Dave Logghe), leader of Vulgaria, who is trying to steal the car for himself.
It’s up to the quartet to keep Bomburst away from the car while also setting free the children he and his child catcher (Aubrey Shimek Davis, who also plays Violet) have captured in Vulgaria.
Davis began casting “Chitty” in January and didn’t finish until April after he saw more than 500 people from across the country.
The process was so lengthy because Davis wanted to make sure the cast understood the specific style of the show and could bring it to life.
“One of the things that we’ve said back and forth to each other throughout this rehearsal process is it’s ostensibly a show about a car, but that car doesn’t mean anything if the relationships aren’t there,” he said. “It’s a really wonderful warm sense of family in the actual space that we’re rehearsing in, which is great because it translates to the warm sense of family in the play that we’re trying to show.”
The connection between the adult and child actors onstage also mirrors what Davis sees happening among the adults and children in the audience.
“As I’ve been working on it in the room, one of the things I’m noticing that is a big thematic element is how much the adults learn from the children in the show, how much we require the eyes of a child sometimes to allow ourselves to remember how to have fun, how to play and also to experience life in an honest fashion,” Davis said. “It walks a really beautiful line of showing us how to have fun like children as children, in this great, fantasy-toned lovely little story.”
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