Tyler Gray and Catriona Schoneveld had never met before they auditioned for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.
But they now share a special bond, playing twins Jeremy and Jemima Potts in Musical Theatre Oamaru’s children’s theatre production.
Rehearsals for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr started in March, and Catriona (9) and Tyler (10) had both enjoyed getting to know new people, and acting and interacting with them on and off stage.
It had been an “amazing” experience watching it all come together, Tyler said.
“I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Tyler, who goes to Fenwick School, thought he would go for an ensemble role, because it was his first time auditioning for a Musical Theatre Oamaru production.
But his talent was recognised, and he was asked to audition for the role of Jeremy Potts.
“And I ended up getting it.”
Last year, Catriona’s older sister, Johanna, took part in the Oamaru children’s theatre production Wind in the Willows. When Catriona found out Musical Theatre Oamaru was staging Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr this year, she was “really keen” to be involved.
At Weston School, Catriona has performed in school productions, and is a member of kapa haka and choir groups.
“Basically anything singing that comes up.”
Catriona and Tyler both watched the 1968 movie version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bangbefore auditioning.
“It’s actually quite good for how old it is,” Tyler said.
Musical Theatre Oamaru’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr is based on the beloved film version of Ian Fleming’s children’s book.
Eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts, played by Nathan Oakes, sets about restoring an old race car with the help of children Jeremy and Jemima. They soon discover the car has magical properties, including the ability to take flight.
But trouble occurs when the evil Baron and Baroness Bomburst, played by husband and wife David and Jude Blair, decide they want the magic car for themselves. The Potts family joins forces with Truly Scrumptious (Evie Nutbean) and Grandpa Potts (David Snow) to outwit the Baron and Baroness.
It was the first time adults had been allowed to perform in Broadway Junior productions, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr director Pat Gunn said. Due to Covid-19 lockdowns throughout Australasia, rights holders had been granted permission to include adults – and Musical Theatre Oamaru had taken full advantage of it.
Five adults are performing alongside the Oamaru cast of 37 children, who range in age from 8 to 17.
“Having the adults has lifted our show to a completely different level,” Mrs Gunn said.
“It’s been good for the children to see what they can aspire to.”
The children had also been “amazing” to work with, Mrs Gunn, who is directing the show alongside vocal director Louise Nutbean and choreographer Anna Stuart, said.
“It’s been a big learning curve for a lot of the children, who haven’t been in theatre before.”
This week, the cast moved in to the Waitaki Boys’ High School auditorium, where the show is being staged from July 23 to 25.
The show had been well supported by the community, and had received funding from the Oamaru Licensing Trust through The Lion Foundation and Waitaki District Council Creative Communities Scheme, Mrs Gunn said.
“Everything we’ve asked for, people have gone out of their way to give it to us, to make it available for us.”
Tickets are $10 and available from iticket.co.nz. There would be door sales at the Waitaki Boys’ High School auditorium two hours before each performance.