Gian Magdangal is back in Manila for two things: to play quirky inventor Caractacus Potts in Resort World Manila’s (RWM) production of the British classic musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and to catch up with his 9-year-old son.
Working as an actor in Hong Kong Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan allowed him to earn his keep, but “nothing beats the warmth of performing for the Filipino audience,” he said.
“Gian was in Japan, and we could not see anybody else doing the role,” said Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, artistic director of RWM’s in-house theater company Full House. “We knew who we wanted for our ‘dream cast’—it was just a matter of their availability. We got Jaime del Mundo as director.”
“‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ has technical requirements,” co-artistic director Michael Williams pointed out. “They have to dance, so we auditioned the actors for technicalities.”
Magdangal made the cut after a round of auditions. Now he’s staying in Manila with his family as long as there’s work, starting first with 9 Works Theatrical’s “Newsies” in July, and now “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” which opens Oct. 21 at RWM’s Newport Performing Arts Theater.
It’s a sort of homecoming for Magdangal. RWM’s very first production was the circus musical “Kaos” in 2010, in which Magdangal played the Prince.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (book by Jeremy Sams; lyrics by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman) is based on the film adaptation of the novel by author—and James Bond creator—Ian Fleming. He originally wrote it as a bedtime tale for his son.
The 1968 film was popular among her peers, said Yulo, and she hopes the new generation of theatergoers will enjoy the musical as well.
It’s the colorful story of the eccentric Potts family: the village oddball Caractacus and his out-of-school twins Jeremy and Jemima, and how their sincerity and creativity make a magical car out of a rundown jalopy, which makes rhythmic “chitty chitty” sounds as it flies.
Playing the Potts twins are four kiddie actors: Isabeli Araneta Elizalde, Zoey Alvarade, Noel Comia Jr. and Albert Silos. They’re the only actors who have alternates.
Comia won Best Actor in the recent Cinemalaya film festival for “Kiko Boksingero.” Silos was in the indie movie “Turo, Turo,” Elizalde headlined the RWM musical “Annie,” and Alvarade was in Repertory Philippines’ “Wizard of Oz.”
The flamboyant Vulgarians are led by Raymund Concepcion as the tyrant Baron Bomburst, and Yulo as the wicked Baroness.
Completing the cast are Mako Alonso as Boris, Reb Atadero as Goran, James Paolleli as Grandpa Potts, Williams as the Toymaker, and Lorenz Martinez as the Childcatcher.
Yanah Laurel plays classy lady Truly Scrumptious, the cheeky but kind-hearted would-be love interest of the widower Caractacus. Singing excerpts of the musical at a recent press launch, Laurel and Magdangal proved to be a fetching couple to watch.
Despite the oddball nature of Caractacus Potts, Magdangal said he can relate very well with the character: “I am a single dad supporting my son. He’s an inventor, and I’m an artist, so we both reinvent and create. And, we’re also not rich,” he said with a laugh.
“‘Chitty’ is really about the adventure of coming home and the magic of teamwork. It’s very heartwarming, and just the kind of positivity we all need.”
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” runs Oct. 21-Nov. 12 at Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City. Visit www.ticketworld.com.ph