A group of children will embark on a fantastical early 20th century adventure to the land of Vulgaria aboard a spirited former race-car by the name of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The children, aged 8-13 years, are part of a 25-person cast of actors in the upcoming Whidbey Children’s Theater production, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” The show is directed by Whidbey Children’s Theater program and production manager, Kathryn Lynn Morgen, with musical direction by Melanie Lowey.
It was originally set to debut on Friday, Feb. 20, but Morgen and Cait Casseé, executive director, decided on Wednesday to postpone the show opening until Friday, Feb. 27.
The postponement reflects the philosophy of the community theater, which is focused upon building actors’ confidence and fostering creativity and an affinity with artistic expression.
“This decision creates that supportive net of safety for our actors, who will now be able to take the stage with a greater sense of joy and creativity,” wrote Casseé, according to a recent press release. “They are an amazing cast and crew.”
Morgen agreed, saying that the dedication of the cast members is inspiring and infectious.
“The most amazing thing is when I give a kid a direction and they come up with this completely creative, totally inspired thing,” Morgen said. “It’s touching and moving.”
She added that the script is very long — she had to make some cuts for time — and sometimes quite complex and daunting, especially for a group mostly composed of 8-10 year-olds.
But despite the difficulties, Morgen said the actors — both newcomers and experienced performers — have been enthusiastic and eager to take direction. The postponement will allow the actors to be more confident and reap more enjoyment from the experience, she said.
“It’s all about the kids,” she said.
Morgen has spent plenty of time under the stage lights as an actor, but it is her first time directing.
Of the experience, she said she has been honored with the level of trust her actors impart to her. She added that she “can’t stress enough” how inspirational and motivational the kids’ dedication has been.
The story was a childhood favorite of hers. When asked to direct, she couldn’t refuse.
“It’s such an eclectic show; it matches everything I love,” Morgen said. “Once I started getting into the show, I realized it’s this amalgamation of wackadoodle characters and a whimsical story line…I’m all about that; I’m about the surreal, magical.”
The tale, set in the 1910s, was famously portrayed in the 1968 British musical film starring Hollywood big-shots Dick Van Dyke as Caractacus Potts, Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious and Lionel Jeffries as Grandpa Potts. The film’s script was written by Ken Hughes and children’s book author Roald Dahl.
It is loosely based on the novel by Ian Fleming, titled “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car.”
From child-snatchers to magical cars and musical sweets to eccentric inventors, the show contains an eclectic medley of madness and delight.
Melissa Koch is helping to paint a set to match the plot line, with “spicy,” vivid colors inspired by pop art and the set designs of David Hockney.
Koch, a longtime professional artist, said she had always wanted to get into set design. “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is the fourth Whidbey Children’s Theater show she has worked on.
“I think what they’re doing with the kids is really awesome,” Koch said.
Morgen said that when Koch brought up the idea of a set inspired by Hockney, she was “completely on board.”
“I’ve been blessed with Melissa,” she said. “We mind-melded on this production.”
Morgen said she had a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that the show is so iconic due to the famed film version. She explained that she didn’t want to “fight against people’s preconceived notions.”
“I wanted to move so far away from that that people sat down and accepted that this was a new realm and a new vision,” she said.
The show will also include live music by Ashley Eriksson and Eli Moore.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” dates and tickets:
Show dates are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Feb. 27-28 and March 6-7 and 2 p.m. Sundays March 1 and 8.
Tickets cost $8 for youth, $12 for seniors and $15 for adults and may be purchased online at whidbeychildrenstheater.org.