Chapter 147- First Stage Theater (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)

While growing up in my family, Thanksgiving meant a 3-5 day celebration with aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends.  Wednesday was an all-night pizza party that ran right into Thursday morning turkey baking.  After our meal on Thursday, we’d play and nap and the kids would invariably get into some sort of trouble before movie time began.

We’d watch classics like Swiss Family Robinson, E.T., Mary Poppins, and one of my favorites, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  It’s a tale of imagination and perseverance, and has a flying car in it so OF COURSE kids like it.  And I got the opportunity to see this magical movie come to life in a First Stage performance!

If you’re not familiar with First Stage, it’s an incredible children’s theater here in Milwaukee that began in 1987.  First Stage offers professional theater productions like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, an academy for theater training and classes, and educational programs in schools and our communities.

And on this past Sunday, I took my oldest and youngest daughters on a special date to see the play, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  My two kindergarteners actually get to see it with school later this month, so it was a really nice treat for the other two to get to see the production!

(above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography: Jackson Evans, Malkia Stampley, Jack Trettin and Paige Landrum in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)

And I have to tell you, it was nothing short of an incredible experience.  My 8 year old and almost 4 year old both loved the performance equally.  The theater is set up so there’s not a bad seat in the house, and the stage is recessed so everyone has a great view of the people and props on stage.

(above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

When the opening number began, I noticed the wide age range of actors.  We got to see some very young kids (the youngest appeared to be about 5 years old), adolescents, adults and even a “grandpa-aged” adult as my daughter said.  Some of these actors were entering and exiting through the audience, a great way for kids to see people and costumes up close!   I was also impressed with the use of stage…actors were standing on boxes and tables, getting close to the audience.  The pianist was pretty much in the audience which contributed to the almost hands-on feel of the show.

(above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography: Rick Pendzich, Jackson Evans and young performer cast in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG)

As for the actual story and performance, it was so creative!  The props were used in such a way that I think encourages ingenuity and creativeness.  For example, when the car was to be floating on water, stagehands crawled under the car and “inflated” some floatation devices, waving them gently.

(above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

At one point in the movie, a blimp is flying through the air with a small hut hanging below.  The actors carried a miniature blimp and hut in the air, with their voices sounding far off, and gave the clear impression that they were in the air.  Even if some dialogue was lost for younger audience members, the action/set/singing/dancing carried them through without confusion.

This interpretation of the movie really emphasized the message of adventure and persistence.  The family didn’t give up on rescuing their grandfather AND helping the children of Vulgaria (you’ll just have to see the play to know what I’m talking about).  I was moved by the song “The Roses of Success”, where Grandpa Potts was given the impossible talk of making the Baron’s car fly.  We’re told “…up from the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success…”.  In the next number, the rest of the Potts family is trying to save the children of the city and they sing “…we’re all together, a team can weather any storm they may go through, cause teamwork can make a dream work, if you’re not afraid to fight!”

(above photo credit Paul Ruffolo Photography)

Now perhaps I was inspired by these messages of hope, unity, grit and determination because of current affairs in our county (and ahem, worldwide).  I’m uneasy about our volatile political climate and worried about the future.  But spending a Sunday afternoon listening to reminders that we can work together for justice and a better life eased my mind.  And it offered the same lessons to my kids.

We loved the Q&A (or talkback) session after the last scene.  The cast stayed on stage and took questions from the audience.  The actors took turns answering the questions, which was a neat way for my kids to see that the people on stage were regular people, too!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is playing through November 5th, and I really hope you get a chance to see it.  Thank you First Stage for the wonderful experience!

A. Storm

 

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  1. Mom says:

    You get better with age. Job very will done. Love, Mom

    Reply

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