Hobson's Choice: Lunchbox, StoryBook spread holiday cheer with With Bells On, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,

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StoryBook and Lunchbox theatres are rolling out some holiday cheer.

StoryBook’s holiday family musical this year is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which is based on the 1964 film that tells the story of how an eccentric and widowed inventor named Caractacus Potts, his children Jeremy and Jemima, and Truly Scrumptious, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, restore an old racing car only to discover it has magical powers. The villainous Baron Bomburst and his Vulgarian spies are determined to steal the car, but that means they’ll have to outwit Caractacus and his team.

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The movie and the musical are based on a story by Ian Fleming who wrote the James Bond novels. The film was developed for Dick Van Dyke who’d made such a splash starring opposite Julie Andrews in the film Mary Poppins. Composers Richard and Robert Sherman, who’d written the songs for Mary Poppins, wrote the songs for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the film, and then added six new songs for the stage musical, so it is a big, tuneful family musical.

In addition to the title song Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the musical features such songs as Toot Sweets, Hushabye Mountain, Truly Scrumptious and Me Ol’ Bamboo.

In StoryBook’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which runs in the Beddington Arts Centre Nov. 24 to Dec. 30, Nic Chamberlain plays Caractacus, with Julia Bleichert as Truly, Cecilia Currie as Jemima, Oliver Vincze as Jeremy and Allen Crowley as Baron Bomburst. Javier Vilata who staged Vertigo Theatre’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is directing with Brian Holiday as musical director and Taylor Rae Steedman as choreographer.

StoryBook Theatre’s artistic director JP Thibodeau promises “the audience will be blown away by our car. It’s as much a character as any of the actors.”

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang runs Thursdays to Saturdays at 7 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. A full schedule plus advance tickets are available at storybooktheatre.org.

Christmas Christman
Natasca Girgis plays 32 of Charles Dickens’ characters in StoryBook Theatre’s One Christmas Carol.Photo by Tim Nguyen jpg


StoryBook’s second holiday show is Douglas H. Baker’s One Christmas Carol, a tour-de-force evening where one actor brings 32 of Dickens’ beloved characters to life.

StoryBook’s artistic director JP Thibodeau who staged the play several times in Canmore, says One Christmas Carol is pure theatre, explaining “there’s no elaborate scenery. No changing of costumes. Just one actor and a timeless story.”

When he put out a casting call earlier this year, he was surprised to be contacted by Natascha Girgis, one of Calgary’s finest character actors to say she was interested.

“Natascha is one of our most versatile actors. A show like this was made for her. She’s going to blow people away. Natascha starts out as the narrator, and as she begins telling Dickens’ story, she turns into the characters. They’re all there. Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Fezziwig, Belle, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. It’s an evening of theatre for the whole family.”

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Girgis most recently starred as the ill-fated magistrate in Theatre Calgary’s The Mousetrap, and as the Elizabethan poet Emilia Bassano who became Shakespeare’s muse in Lunchbox Theatre’s The Dark Lady.

One Christmas Carol will be running mainly Sundays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m. but there are also some Monday and Tuesday shows so it is essential to check out the schedule at storybooktheatre.org.


Lunchbox Theatre’s holiday show With Bells On, has a storied history with Calgary’s lunchtime theatre company.

With Bells On is the story of a most outrageous encounter. Ted, a mild-mannered accountant with persistent bad luck, finds himself trapped in his apartment elevator with Natasha, a towering drag queen dressed as a Christmas tree. Natasha is on his way to a Christmas Queen pageant which he intends to win. He just has to get out of the elevator, and Ted’s life, in time.

Written by Edmontonian Darrin Hagen, With Bells on was developed through Lunchbox’s Stage One new play development program back in 2018.  Starring Paul Welch and Stafford Perry, it premiered at Lunchbox in 2010 to critical and audience acclaim, so much so, that it was revived with the same actors in 2014.

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Fast forward nine years, and With Bells on is making a return visit to Lunchbox with a new cast. Bernardo Pacheco is Ted to Joel Schaefer’s Natasha, with Conrad Belau directing the comic mayhem.

Up in Edmonton, Theatre Network is premiering the musical version of With Bells On from Dec. 5-23, a further feather in Lunchbox’s cap for having nurtured the original script.

Benjamin Toner who won the $10,000 top prize on the TV show Sew Fierce, and has designed costumes for the Stampede Grandstand show, has designed the costumes for Lunchbox’s With Bells On.

With Bells On runs at Lunchbox in the Vertigo Studio Theatre Nov. 28 through Dec. 17.

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Originally posted 2023-11-22 18:52:16.