With a mandate to produce family-friendly musicals that have not been produced in the Lower Mainland before, Align Entertainment follows up last year’s The Addams Family with the high-flying Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Based on the 1968 film starring Dyke Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes, itself loosely based on a 1964 children’s book, the musical stage adaptation tells the story of eccentric inventor, Caractacus Potts, who restores an old race car from a scrap heap with the help of his children. Discovering the car has magical properties including the ability to float and fly, trouble occurs when the evil Baron Bomburst desires the magic car for himself and the family sets off on adventure to save both the car and themselves.
While always a risk of comparisons when actors like Van Dyke are associated with a film character, director Chad Machette doesn’t discount the recognition factor, but is helping his cast to make these recognizable characters their own.
“What you want to do is to honour the film performances, but ensure you’re staying true to the story and the characters themselves,” he says.
A mix of professional and community-based actors, Align Entertainment is that community theatre hybrid that benefits from its equity performers, while giving opportunities to those that are there for the love of theatre. And with 36 on stage, there is plenty of opportunity for both to shine, including a good number of roles for children, which fits in well with the play’s theme of family.
“Potts is a single dad, but he not a stereotypical father figure of the time the play takes place, and in the late sixties when the film was made,” he says. “He is very involved in his children’s lives and their upbringing. While the story never really explains what happened to the mother, other than to say she is ‘over in the church yard’, these children are certainly not suffering from a lack of love.”
The feel-good family nature of the musical is perhaps not unexpected given its origins as a children’s book, but what may be surprising is the book was written by Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond.
“It might be a bit of a stretch,” says Machette with a laugh at the idea that there may be some of 007 in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. “Although I suppose that like Bond’s cars that are always tricked out there might be some comparison there.”
Speaking of tricked out cars, while Machette is a little coy about revealing too much, he does hint to having their very own version of the flying car on stage.
“We invite everyone to come find out,” he says.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang plays the Michael J Fox Theatre (7373 Macpherson Ave, Burnaby) February 5-20. Visit http://alignentertainment.ca for tickets and information.