Review: ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ chugs along nicely at the VST

Chris Carlisle (back), Alexander Wesley and Lacey Thomas in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” (Photo/Marty Higginbotham)

The show: “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” at the Virginia Samford Theatre through June 30. The Disney musical is based on the 1968 movie that was based on the book by Ian Fleming. In it, father Caractacus and siblings Jeremy and Jemima Potts, along with friend Truly Scrumptious, take to the skies in a rebuilt jalopy and save both Grandpa Potts, who has been mistakenly kidnapped, and the jailed children of Vulgaria.

The crew: Directed and choreographed by Henry Scott; music direction by Michael King; scenic design by Ben Boyer; costume design by Emma Fox; hair/wig design by Laura K. Barnett; lighting design by Caleb Stroman; sound design by Jay Tumminello; properties design by Paul Boyer; stage managed by Daniel Bussey.

The cast: Chris Carlisle (Caractacus Potts), Zoe Wirt (Truly Scrumptious), Lacey Thomas (Jemima), Alexander Wesley (Jeremy), Chuck Duck (Grandpa Potts), Scott Stewart (Baron Bomburst), Courtney Cook (Baroness), David Strickland (Boris), Jeff DeGarmo (Goran), Kyle Holman (Lord Scrumptious and the Child Catcher), Andrew Duxbury (Coggins), plus a large ensemble.

The orchestra: Michael King, Maury Levine, Lori ARdovino, Daryl Jones, Noah Bener, William Schneider, Crisy Vest, Wyatt Van Horn.

The human highlights: Carlisle and Wirt, both with winning personalities and wonderful voices, lead  the proceedings as Caractacus and Truly Scrumptious. Thomas and Wesley are a delight as the two Potts children, lighting up the stage with their smiles and talent. Duck, a veteran Birmingham actor, shows another side to his talent here with musical comedy, and his entertaining Grandpa Potts leaves us wanting to see him do it more. Stewart, Cook, Strickland and DeGarmo are spot-on in four roles that demand expert comic touches and execution. And Holman, even in two smallish roles, leaves a lasting impression, particularly as the evil Child Catcher. The ensemble sounds great, and all bring Scott’s lively choreography to life in a big way.

The non-human highlights: We’ll start with the car, a theatrical marvel concocted by Boyer and O’Neal Manufacturing Services that actually flies with the help of a little on-stage magic. The show sounds good, thanks in part to a new sound system at the VST, and it looks good, thanks to creative design and some top-notch costumes and wigs.

One quibble: There are a couple of mild double-entendres that are by no means gasp-worthy, but they just seem out of place in this otherwise ultra-family-friendly production.

The verdict: With “Mary Poppins” a few blocks away at Red Mountain Theatre, this makes two exceptional productions of rarely-done Disney musicals that should delight parents and their children.

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” at the Virginia Samford Theatre through June 30.

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