Flight of fantasy poised for WA lift-off

Stephen Bevis Arts Editor
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Flight of fantasy poised for WA lift-off

The jaunty jalopy musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has landed in Perth.

The stage version of the evergreen 1968 family film starts its preview performances at the Crown Theatre tonight ahead of the official opening on Friday.

The comic fantasy tells the story of how eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts, his two children and love-interest Truly Scrumptious save a magical flying car from the scrapheap and use it to outwit a dastardly baron and his spies.

Stage favourites David Hobson, Rachael Beck and Shane Bourne lead a cast which includes Perth children Declan Allen, Chloe Marlow, Seamus Harrison and Stephanie Shawlen alternating as Jeremy and Jemima Potts.

Director Roger Hodgman said he had been amazed by the talent unearthed in Perth auditions for the children’s roles.

“I won’t say they are the best because that will get back to the others (in other cities) but they are very special,” he said.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is based on a children’s book by James Bond author Ian Fleming.

Hobson, a composer and opera singer, hailed the “brilliant” songs of Robert and Richard Sherman, the brothers behind Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book.

These include the sing-along title tune, Chu-Chi Face, Toot Sweets, Hushabye Mountain and Doll on a Music Box.

“That type of song-writing is very difficult to pull off, to tell a story and capture an audience’s imagination with beautiful melodies and lyrics,” Hobson said.

“Those guys are fantastic, brilliant. Do we tell stories these days with that kind of music anymore? Maybe not.”

The song and dance routines include the demanding Me Ole Bamboo, which Hobson said was a daunting prospect for someone making the transition from opera for the first time.

“When the asked me I was very, very reticent because I’d never done a musical before,” he said.

“It was really tough because I was dancing with guys 20 years younger than me and I’m an opera singer. It was a big challenge but I’ve really, really enjoyed it.”

His only dancing experience had been on TV talent show Dancing With the Stars, which was only partially helpful. “I was on that because I can’t dance,” he said.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs at the Crown Theatre until October 6 and then heads to Brisbane.