Reviewed by Margaret Thompson
“Blown away.” “Unbelievable.” “So glad we came.” “Amazing.” These are the reviews I overheard as we made our way out of Steward School’s Robins Theatre after the opening night performance of CharacterWorks’ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
That about summed up my crew’s thoughts as well – we truly were blown away. If you’ve never seen a CharacterWorks play, this would be a great time to start. You’ll wonder how even a Broadway version could possibly improve upon the acting, the singing, the set design, the lighting, the sound, the costuming – just all of it. How could it get any better than this?
The play opens with the lead children, Jeremy and Jemima Potts, played by veteran (yes, veteran, at age twelve!) RVA stage actor Brandon McKinney and 10-year-old Olivia Altovilla playing in an old car their father tinkers with when he’s not busy inventing cool machines. The dad/inventer, Caractacus Potts, played by 17-year-old Chris Cox (who we remembered as Willy Wonka and Huckleberry Finn in past productions) is determined not to let a prospective buyer get away with his kids’ dream car, so he hatches a plan (or two or three) to raise enough money to buy it himself. The family of three, plus Grandpa, so believably played by 16-year-old Godwin student Luke White, make the acquaintance of one Truly Scrumptious, played by Sarah Day, who is performing in her twenty-second and final CharacterWorks show.
Supporting these stand-out actors and singers are a lively and talented cast, including the comic relief duo of Boris and Goran, played by 17-year-old Jeremiah Rosmarin and 18-year-old Charlie Allen, and the always-entertaining Baron and Baroness Bomburst, played by 18-year-old Jake Smith and 17-year-old Natalia Araujo. Allen is appearing in his final show (he holds the CWorks record now with twenty-nine in a row!). He started off as Wilbur the pig in Charlotte’s Web in 2007 and has never missed a production since! We remember him as Donkey in Shrek. (Charlie, you will be missed.)
As you can imagine, if you know anything about the movie and the special car’s, let’s say, abilities, the set design is simply amazing. Under the mastery of longtime CharacterWorks set designer Peter Holleran, along with Chris Spahr, Amy Sullivan, and a gaggle of parent volunteers, the stage came to life throughout the fifteen scenes. Says Brooke Abrahamsen, CWorks director, “As we learn from Caractacus Potts, ‘teamwork can make a dream work,’ and bringing Chitty to life was no exception!”
You really should treat yourself to this unforgettable production. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang continues through Sunday, June 21, at the Robins Theatre at the Steward School. Tickets are available here: Character Works.