CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B.Sherman, adapted by Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick, directed by Roderick (Mirvish/Big League). At the Canon (244 Victoria). To January 4. $26-$99. 416-872-1212. See stage. Rating: NN
You have to be nostalgic about the 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to warm to this stage adaptation. This American tour, part of the Mirvish season, is clearly aimed at family audiences during the holidays.
Getting kids interested in theatre is a great idea, but the draw here is limited, given this show's quality. Except when the flying car of the title is onstage, much of the production - its full title is Ian Fleming's CCBB, since Fleming wrote the book that inspired film and stage musical - feels like it's thumping along on three flat tires.
We're getting a version of a version here, for touring show director Ray Roderick has further tinkered with the Jeremy Sams stage adaptation. What's onstage at the Canon packs too much set-up in the first act and too much plot in the second.
The story centres on single-parent inventor Caractacus Potts (Steve Wilson) and his children (Jeremy Lipton and Camille Mancuso) and their involvement with Truly Scrumptious (Kelly McCormick), a plucky woman who rides a motorcycle and whose father runs a candy factory. Their lives are complicated, but not for too long, by the show's villains, the rulers of Vulgaria and their associates, who want to steal the car.
If the production had some heart, it would work beyond the design element, but in most cases we're given broad, two-dimensional figures, presented without much involvement by the most of the actors; with this kind of rote performance, there's no one to care about.
Wilson gives Potts some energy, but McCormick's bland Truly deflates their scenes together. And while her material isn't much, Elizabeth Ward Land as the Baroness of Vulgaria knows how to time a comic line.
Best of all are Dirk Lumbard and Scott Cote as the blundering spies, music-hall figures whose bad jokes are part of their characters. Lumbard, who viewers might remember for his work in Crazy For You and in several Stratford musicals, gives a double entendre nod to some of the exchanges.
I wish that there were more menace in Oliver Wadsworth's Childcatcher, the eerie figure who appears in the second act. Despite a nightmarish, black costume, he's not much of a threat.
While there are some flashy sets in the first act - made up of giant gears, ratchets, wheels and some of Caractacus's inventions -- the real star of the show is the driving/floating/flying car. Each act ends with the car soaring through the stars, and the visuals are really magical. Too bad the rest of the show isn't as good.
The young audience laughed a few times at poop jokes and the dogs onstage, but responded best of all to the finale's clap-along reprise of the title song.
And if you parents have wistful memories of the film, you might want to add another N to the rating. Otherwise, the Cinderella panto or The Nutcracker will be better family entertainment.