BY SANDY STAGGS
Okay, so the car in Artios Greenville’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” does not fly like in the original London production, but believe me, this specially-engineered rented vehicle does everything but. Based on the most expensive stage prop ever built at ($1.25 million), Chitty, a former racing car that won the European Grand Prix three years in a row beginning in 1910, has tires that tilt horizontally for floating, as well as a hydraulic lift that raises the car and wings that extend out for traversing the skies.
Based on the 1968 film starring Dick Van Dyke as bumbling inventor Caractacus Potts (played on the Younts Center stage with confidence and charm by student tenor Paris Woods), “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” features most of the bubbly tunes (and a few more) written by the Sherman Brothers (Richard M. and Robert B.) of “Mary Poppins” fame.
And while the story lacks the heart and life lessons of “Mary Poppins,” this musical, which was inspired by Ian Fleming’s (yes, the James Bond creator) children’s book, is pure fantasy adventure with a cast and creative team that makes the most of the premise’s escapist bliss.
The Potts children Jeremy and Jemima, played by the dynamic duo of Grayson Walker and Riley Fincher-Foster, spend their free time (and sometimes school hours) playing in an old junk car imagining they are leading the pack in the Grand Prix. That is, until the garage owner on hard times strikes a deal to sell the storied racing car to a scrap metal dealer.
Then, we meet heiress and love interest Miss Truly Scrumptious, the impeccably talented soprano Sophie Lynch, who comes along for the ride, literally.
Their financially-struggling father promises his children he will secure the money to save their favorite toy and sets out to sell some of his inventions (a candy stick that can be played like a flute and an automatic hair-cutting machine) in a series of misadventures, which naturally lead to the show’s huge an enterprising dance numbers all choreographed by one of Greenville’s leading dance geniuses, Kimberlee Ferreira.
First, there’s the gorgeous “Toot Sweets” set in a candy factory with all of the workers getting in on the action, and then “Me Ol’ Bamboo” (a fantastic dance sequence that dazzles with its myriad incorporations of bamboo sticks (or shower rods in this case). And finally, there’s the dazzling “The Bombie Samba” with a squad of fuchsia and ruffle-sleeved ensemble exploring a vast range of Latin moves.
And once Caractacus fully restores the vehicle to its former glory, the magic of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is revealed, attracting the attention of the child-hating tyrants of the fictional country of Vulgaria (the absolutely delightful comedic pairing of Bailey Hunter and MacKenzie Smith. Their romantic saunter in “Chu-Chi Face” is perhaps this production’s most genuine and sanguine gifts.
Their bumbling spies (Aidan Creed and Joseph Tumas) are hot on the trail of the infamous car and always hiding in plain sight. And when they accidentally kidnap the wrong Mr. Potts (a completely unrecognizable and scene-stealing Drew Reynolds, star of last year’s “The Music Man” as Grandpa), the plot veers into total
This production is a winsome affair directed by Sterling and Chelsea Street (formerly of Grenville Little Theatre) in their first mega-show at Artios. The show is ambitious and fluid, with first-rate costumes, sublime characterizations, spiffy and colorful scenery and ultimately, a bouncy and pleasing spectacle that is like candy to the eyes and ears.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is produced by Lori Lane, with terrific music direction by Jack Toler, and set design by Matt Aho and John Lane.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” continues through April 28. Shows are at 7 p.m. at the Younts Center for the Performing Arts, 315 North Main Street in Fountain Inn. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.com.
Artios Greenville has also announced the lineup for next season: “You Can’t Take It With You,” “Annie, Jr.”, and “Jane Eyre: The Musical.”