Without question, when two Vulgarian spies – acted with irreverent humour by Phoenicia Cassidy-Boulos and Perla Layman – are hiding in the bushes somewhere in Britain, dancing and singing will soon explode onto the stage and actually overflow right off the stage. Walter Cassidy, stage director of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the musical now playing to great delight at Walkerville Collegiate Institute’s Centre for the Creative Arts has worked overtime with choreographer and movement director Roger Wellington to create modern day stage magic in which the music is almost non-stop and there are no walls separating the stage from the audience.
While walls are not mentioned, there are, sadly confines. The children of the great country of Vulgaria are banned, actually locked away in the netherworld of caves under the Vulgarian city that is home to the dastardly Baron Bomburst, played with an amusing mix of arrogance and self-centeredness by Sarah Misiasz. If nothing else his faithful Baroness, the wonderful singer Meredith Garswood, delivers a great line when the Baron asks about how he looks. “I could eat you with a spoon, my strudel.”
The inward Baron is no fan of children. To make sure none ever cross his path the evil Child Catcher scours the kingdom. Spencer Pearson handles the acting superbly with just a little twinkle behind his spectacles. Without children, what is a Toy Maker to do? Kat Hales, the Toymaker must make an outstanding toy for the Baron. Hales brings the required subtle contempt to her role knowing one false move and its good-bye.
Vulgaria is just that kind of place, where questions are rarely asked before executions. One of the dreams of Bomburst is to have a car able to float and fly. One such vehicle has been invented by Caractacus Potts. Seamus Tokol handles this true hinge role – everything hinges on his performance – with such perfection the audience collectively pinches itself to agree it is actually watching a senior high school student.
The Potts family also includes two children and a grandfather. Zeb Fulcher’s Jeremy and Elizabeth Meriano’s Jemima bring the innocence of youth but it is Meriano, the charming girl with the million dollar smile, who steals the show. Playing the role of Grandpa Potts could be a trial for a high school student, but not for Aidan Robertson who rolls with the punches better than some seasoned actors.
Then there is Serena Barr, in the role of Truly Scrumptious. Although her wholesomeness is palpable her real skill is singing adding texture to the play with her exceptional abilities.
In his notes, director Cassidy says he didn’t realize “the political and social message it also had in this script.”
One of the props is a MVGA hat, Make Vulgaria Great Again, and possibly just out of coincidence, the play’s Lord Scrumptious, Ashton Curtis, has more than a passing resemblance to Donald Trump Jr. which is most obvious with him also playing one of Bomburst’s soldiers.
For Curtis, the hardest part of being in the play is the rehearsals, knowing the lines and where to go and when on the stage. It all started in October with two rehearsals a week and then the pace picked up to four practice runs a week after the winter break. The result is one exciting night of music and a tale of romance between Caractacus and Truly which initially seems not in the cards.
What gives the play a richness not often seen locally is the 23 musicians of its Band Pit, led with the superb upright bass playing of Summer Elsawi with Liam McAuley on electric bass. They are the foundation of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang song and the pair and the whole percussion and wind sections never miss a beat. Few plays have the luxury of such a large live orchestra ably supervised by music director Amanda Sands.
The play, produced by Jeff Marontate will run again on February 23, 24, 28 as well as March 1 and 2 in the Walkerville Collegiate Institute Auditorium, 2100 Richmond Street in Walkerville. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors.
More details can be found in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang listing on the Eyes On Windsor Events Calendar.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.