I had just finished typing the Music Man synopsis on our website when I received the email that the rights to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had just been released. It was literally the day before we were to announce our 2010-2011 show season and, as much as I love Harold Hill, I was sure that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a better choice for this season. Within the hour I had a contract and it was decided that we would be one of the first amateur theaters to present Chitty. Now all that we had left to do was to build a flying car. Yikes.
So “Team Chitty” was born. The group was complete with a visionary, a carpenter, a welder, a mechanic, an artist, a seamstress and an engineer. The team’s only goal was to bring the car from the movie to life and make it float and fly on stage. A daunting task to say the least but if we’ve learned anything from CYT it’s to dream big. And frankly, if there is no flying car, there is no show.
So, step one, buy a 14” model of the original car on EBay. Step two, decide that it should make a statement onstage and be 14’ long. And step three, agree that the car doesn’t have to actually “fly” like Peter Pan but should lift like a ride at Universal using pneumatics. Three months and several sleepless nights later, Chitty was unveiled with it’s “floaty fly feature” (quote from the Baron of Vulgaria in Chitty) and stole the show for 12 sold out audiences!
“One of the biggest challenges was making the pneumatics work with the frame,” says Team Chitty. “It took three attempts before the car would lift properly.” But once it did it was magic. Controlled by multiple pneumatic joysticks offstage, Chitty sprouts wings and rises and falls before your eyes.
The cost of materials for Chitty was $7000 – the most expensive set piece CYT Richmond has built to date. But theaters are lined up to rent the car for their upcoming performances and are helping to offset the cost. For now, Chitty is sleeping soundly in our new warehouse for the holidays, waiting for its next adventure.