A magical car and devoted dad save the day in the musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” at the Wang Theatre.
Director Ray Roderick seems like a proud father when he talks about the flying car that is a star of the musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which runs Feb. 4-8 at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre in Boston.
“We had to develop new technology to create that magical illusion and we’re very proud of it,” said Roderick, who adapted the Broadway production for the national tour, which requires restaging the car every week. “People are so used to computer generated magic on screen, but this is live, right in front of you. You can’t believe it’s happening, and I promise, you will not know how it works.”THEATER PREVIEW CHITTY CHITTY
BANG BANG runs Feb. 4-8 at Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, Tremont Street, Boston. Tickets are $25.50-$72.50. For more information, call 617-532-1116 or go to www.citicenter.org.
An adventure and love story, the musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” began as a hugely popular 1968 film starring Dick Van Dyke, based on a tale by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The theatrical production opened in London in 2002 and on Broadway in 2005, where it received five Tony Award nominations.
For the national tour, Roderick adapted the show to allow for the movement of a cast of 35, including eight dogs and 11 children – seven of whom are Greater Boston kids cast for the seven performances at the Wang. Roderick has changed the opening, added new dance arrangements and cinematic elements, and focused the story on the inventor and single father trying to raise two children in a wacky world.
“We had to change the whole way the puzzle is put together, so there’s a lot that’s new in the show,” he said.
By focusing on the dad, Caractacus Potts, Roderick broadens the appeal of the show.
“It’s not just a kids’ story,” said Roderick, who was associate director for the Broadway revival of “The Music Man” and director of its three-year North American tour. “The dad is like a lot of parents these days. He’s an honest, ingenious, well meaning guy following his heart in a ridiculous world and trying to be the best parent he can be.”
When Caractacus Potts restores and makes magical an old car that once was a prize-winning racer, he unwittingly attracts the attention of the child-hating Baroness and Baron from faraway Vulgaria. In their effort to get the car, they kidnap Grandpa Potts, and the family sets out to rescue him in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, accompanied by Truly Scrumptious, whom the children hope will marry their father.
“So many things don’t go right, yet the magical car he creates and his love for his family save the day,” Roderick said. “It’s a classic adventure story of good over evil where one guy can change the world. And there’s a beautiful love story.”
For the adaptation, Roderick worked with songwriter Richard Sherman, who with his brother Robert, wrote six additional songs for the stage musical. The Sherman Brothers, who received the National Medal of Arts in 2008, also wrote the music for “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Aristocats,” and many other movies.
“I’ve been fortunate to work on this version with Richard Sherman,” said Roderick, who now is rehearsing the Irving Berlin show “I Love A Piano.” “It’s quite a stunning score.”
In addition to the Oscar-nominated title song, the songs “Hushabye Mountain,” “Truly Scrumptious,” and “Toot Sweets” have a simplicity and beauty that “go right to your core,” he said.
Roderick said he believes the tour is especially timely given the inauguration of a new president.
“It’s a great time for a hopeful musical,” he said.
Reach Jody Feinberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.