This production had dual casts in the principal roles. In the interests of fairness we reviewed both casts. Alan Shepley reviewed the Madly Scrumptious cast and David Evans reviewed the Deeply Scrumptious cast.
The Madly Scrumptious Cast reviewed by Alan Shepley
The sheer joy of being immersed in the making of an entertainment on stage was patently obvious during the opening performance of Adelaide Theatre Academy’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. Everybody was on board for the ride, including the audience. The large cast worked as one and the principal players all took their turn to shine. Director Georgia Brass with her production team adroitly harnessed the boundless energy and enthusiasm of more than 30 young people and wowed the audience throughout the journey.
The central focus on set is the magical car dubbed “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”. Chitty’s constructor, Kim Wilson, has conjured a vintage tourer/racer that both looks sensational and is the functional “star” of the show. The audience loved it, especially when seen against projected imagery on the stage cyclorama. In scenes where travel was involved the moving road or stormy sea or cloudscape background was simple and effective. Technically it was all timed with smooth precision.
The music of the piece was well modulated under the control of MD Jemma Allen. The well-rehearsed young voices of the large chorus were able to work with it rather than work against it. Choreography by Jacinta Vistoli was quite captivating. Chorus line entries and exits were seamless and dance and movement routines were very well drilled. In particular I noted that footwork was exceptional throughout be it by individual performers, duos or the chorus as a whole. Overall movement was a feature of this production.
The plot is simple and, of course, fairytale fanciful. Zany inventor Caractacus Potts manages to sell one of his oddball inventions, a hair cutting machine, in order to buy the old car much loved and played in by his children Jeremy and Jemima. Caractacus is a single Dad and is being assisted in child raising by his equally eccentric father Grandpa Potts. The children meet a bike-riding young woman, Truly Scrumptious, with whom they feel an instinctive affinity. Word of the modified and magical car reaches the Baron of Vulgaria who, by decree, banishes and or imprisons children in his kingdom and who covets and collects their toys. The more, and more unusual, the better! There is a mistaken identity, a kidnapping, a marauding Childcatcher, a “single father finds a partner “ situation, and the Caractacus children are incarcerated. And so it is “Chitty”, with Caractacus and Truly Scrumptious on board, to the rescue! What larks!
In the show I saw Ethan Joy played inventor extraordinaire Caractacus Potts. His performance was outstanding. Ethan’s well-modulated delivery, his movement together with his lovely singing voice and song salesmanship were faultless. He has natural stage ease and presence. Together with his Children Jeremy (Elliot Purdie) and Jemima (Amelia Lees) he sang (I Have) “You Two” and a little later delivered the beautiful lullaby “Hushaby Mountain” which drew a most appreciative audience reaction. As the children, Elliot and Amelia combined and complemented each other perfectly. Their stage presence and key contribution to the play was extraordinary given their junior status in the company. They participated in several numbers including the very good “Posh” (Life for Me) with their Grandpa Potts (Jayden Ayling). Jayden played Grandpa with great relish and as a “Dad’s Army” character which is both appropriate and works a treat. His first rate comedic timing and idiosyncratic movement captured the imagination of his audience. A fine performance.
Amber Fibrosi as Truly Scrumptious was simply divine. She possesses a sweet, true and powerful vocal quality that bodes well for any singing future. Amber has a voice well suited to musical theatre. She showcased her talents in numbers such as “Toot Sweet” and “Truly Scrumptious”. She and Ethan make for a perfect match on stage and in my estimation they shared performance “honours” in this cast. If I were to highlight a small segment of this production as an exemplar I would choose Amber’s quite magical movement on the music box song. Stunning!
Another duo who caught the eye and captivated the audience was Baron Bomburst (James Pearce) and Baroness Bomburst (Vasileia Markou). They shared several well-constructed routines and handled them with mature poise. I particularly liked the “Chu Chi Face” number and thought that the samba sequence led by Vasileia was well crafted and expertly executed. Fine performances by both actors.
Bumbling Vulgarian spy duo Boris (Emma Palumbo) and Goran (Jenna Saint) also worked well as a team. I thought they became notably better with their delivery and hence audience connection as the play progressed. Their “Act English” number was jolly good fun! Concerned Toymaker (Tom Tirrell), neighbourly Mr Coggins (Jack Wake-Dyster) together with a sinister “Clockwork Orange” Childcatcher (Lachlan Anderson) were commendable contributors to the narrative of the piece.
Last, but by no means least, there was the wonderful chorus work providing the indispensable vocal and movement framework. They looked good with lollipop pastel themed costuming (by Emily Jaensch) in Act one with green aproned Vulgarian national dress in Act two. Without exception the chorus moved and sang extremely well and demonstrated first rate discipline at all times. All in all it was an Adelaide Theatre Academy triumph! Teamwork certainly does make the dream work!
Deeply Scrumptious Cast reviewed by David Evans
Of the thirty-three performers there were only two who appeared in both casts, the first being the lead actor Ethan Joy as Caractacus Potts. He was outstanding. The second was Emma Palumbo as Boris who was matched in this cast with Amelia Boys as Goran. These two literally bounced off each other with their accents, actions and singing.
Other members of the Potts family were the children Jeremy and Jemima ably portrayed by Florence Du and Polly Schubert respectively. These were major roles with a lot of stage time which they performed seamlessly. The Potts family was completed with the role of Grandpa Potts taken by Thomas Howe, his performance was a show stopper with his majestic voice, expressions and dancing.
Izzy Walters as Truly Scrumptious played the developing love interest to Caractacus. Her stunning vocals combined with her acting and stage kiss had the audience in awe.
The roles of the spoilt Baron Bomburst played by Holly Letcher and Baroness Bomburst played by Abby Hall were portrayed as the ‘baddies’ with their performances that showed their talents in all aspects of stage craft. One highlight was the six foot four Abby being able to show her vocal range in a comedic way that had the audience in raptures.
There was not a weak link in the cast with The Toymaker played by Keely McNamee and the Childcatcher played by Ali Castello showing their talents.
The ensemble with their singing and especially their dancing to the outstanding choreography was a feature of this deeply scrumptious cast.