Since 2001, performers 18 and younger could hone their skills with the Children’s Playhouse of Maryland (CPM), performing in well-known shows like Les Mis, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Cats, and Charlotte’s Web. As a theatre nonprofit CPM aims to build participants’ self-assurance and appreciation for performing arts so that “they will have more confidence and self-esteem for whatever career paths they choose.” CPM’s first show of their 15th Season is Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with music and lyrics by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman.
…CPM’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a perfect way to introduce children, especially aspiring young actors, to the world of theatre.
In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang widowed English inventor Caractacus Potts (Charlie Holt) dotes on his children Jeremy (Dylan Morrison) and Jemima (Maia Vong). When the two set their hearts on a junkyard jalopy, Caratacus finds a way to buy the car and fix it. Little does he know that Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria (Nathan Beyer) has his heart set on obtaining the car. When the Baron’s two spies (Devonte’ Tasker and Theo Halligan) accidentally kidnap Grandpa Potts (Max Wolf), mistaking him for Caratacus, the Potts family and their new friend Truly Scrumptious (Rhiannon Owen) plan his rescue. Meanwhile, their new car has some plans of its own.
Over 40 young performers dedicated their talents to CPM’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cast and helped create a wonderful show. Not only were all the songs enjoyable, the actors managed to maintain their British and Vulgarian accents. Holt (Caractacus Potts), Owen (Truly Scrumptious), Eva Isadora Hellerbach (Baroness Bomburst), and Victoria Caldwell (Toymaker) carried the musical numbers with their strong voices, and Holt, Morrison (Jeremy), and Vong (Jemima) convincingly sold their parent-child relationship, despite having only about an 8-year age difference. Finally, Amanda Dickson’s choreography involved the majority of the older cast members and added to the whimsy of the show. The old favorite “Me Ol’ Bamboo” stood out particularly as the mature choreography featured talented cast members like Devonte’ Tasker and Rachel Miller doing splits and high kicks as they twirled 5-foot bamboo poles.
But it wasn’t just the acting and singing that made the show so enjoyable; it was the attention to detail. Set Designer Diane Smith and Scenic Artist Laura Miller as well as a number of parent volunteers transformed the college lecture hall with incredibly creative set pieces and props, including a number of Potts’ crazy inventions, a floating outhouse, and a full-sized car! Director Liz Boyer Hunnicutt continued this attention to detail by involving every actor in his/her own special way. Hunnicutt added a parade piece to the fair where two young actresses did cartwheels and round offs as others played the part of enthralled crowd members. Before the show the youngest ensemble members showed the audience to their seats. During intermission, two Vulgarian soldiers came onstage to help with a set change and maintained their characters even though most of the audience was in the lobby. The Childcatcher (Sam Patterson) and the group of elderly inventors each had distinct, deliberate physicality. Everyone involved in the production considered the more nuanced theatrical elements, and that made all the difference.
The giggles of the kids in the audience along with their tentative excitement in gathering autographs after the performance showed that CPM’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a perfect way to introduce children, especially aspiring young actors, to the world of theatre.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs through October 4, 2015 at CCBC Essex in Baltimore. Information about tickets and auditions for future shows can be found here or by calling 443-840-2426.