Camden Musical Society: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - Review by Nicole Madden
As someone who grew up on musicals, it’s a surprise I’d never actually seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang before sitting down to see Camden Musical Society’s production. Walking into the Camden Civic Centre, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for seeing musicals as a child in town halls with the friendly, warm welcome of the staff and the community atmosphere. Sophie Cornett’s choreography carries the nostalgia throughout the production, hitting all the right notes you’d expect from a golden-era musical. The high energy and synchronised dances evoke vaudevillian vibes. I particularly appreciated the repeated use of freeze frames and tableaus throughout the production. Director Kerrie Jiear’s vision for the production is clear and consistent, and she’s done a remarkable job. The way the vocal chorus work and harmonies came together is a true asset to Susan Brown’s musical direction.
The cast negotiated the script and musical numbers with a joy that was infectious to the audience. Eddison Collyer (Jeremy Potts) and Imogen Bakoss (Jemima Potts) were a delight to watch, and played the young Potts children with sincerity, treading the boards like seasoned professionals. Collyer and Bakoss were joined by a kids ensemble that exuded energy and personality on stage, and it was hard not to focus on them each time they were onstage. The adult cast was equally engaging. Sam Taylor as Truly Scrumptious was truly delightful to watch; she is the picture of sophistication. Taylor’s performance wrapped the audience in a soft, warm hug.
A real highlight of the performance was that of the Vulgarians. Becky Bennison (Boris) and Sam Legeret (Goran) as the Vulgarian spies proved a crowd-favourite comic duo, bringing some of the best comic moments of the night. Frances Holt (Baroness Bomburst) stole every scene she was in, playing the demanding, vain royal with the ease of a highly skilled character actress. Stephen Avery (Baron Bomburst), who played the royal counterpart, deserves a special mention for taking on the role at the last minute due to illness. Despite still having a script, Avery produced a polished and playful performance, bouncing off of Holt with ease. Patrick Humphreys (Toymaker) rounded out the Vulgarian cast, performing with such an infectious smile that you couldn’t help but smile back.
The featured chorus, ensemble, and featured dancers deserve mention, as they all took on multiple characters with complete conviction and all appeared to be having a blast on the simply set stage. Choosing a simple set supported by the use of projection was the right choice for this production. The projection not only served to indicate locations but also took the audience on a journey through the action sequences. When the scene changes were able to be done by the cast instead of the stage crew, it was highly effective and helped the flow of the show. Having a simple set allowed the bright, colourful costumes, managed by Paula Bonnaccorso, to really shine, also adding to the vaudevillian feel of the production.
The real star of the set and props, though, was, of course, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang herself. Laurie Boardman, who also appears as the loveable and doddery Grandpa Potts, has done a remarkable job on the car, creating real stage magic. It was a delight to be in the audience and witness the children around me react to Chitty and her magic. One exclaiming, "The wings have popped out!" in the last scene. The actors also interacted with Chitty as though she were another character in the show, really selling the story of the magic car.
The production as a whole inspired the warm and fuzzy feelings of "community theatre musical production" in all the best ways possible, from the joy of the performers on stage giving it their all to the overwhelming love and support that was clearly coming from the audience in the curtain call. The production left me feeling completely uplifted. I give Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 3 out of 5 magic flying cars.