CHAMPAIGN — Director Patty Dudley was in a difficult spot when the opportunity to rent a car for the Champaign Park District’s performance of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” fell through a few weeks ago. After all, the old, ornate racing vehicle is central to the plot, and the name of the play and the title song reference the sound it makes.
Luckily, she has plenty of willing volunteers.
David Fazio, whose daughter, Kisandra, plays Jemima in the show, volunteered to put together a new car based off of a picture from the classic movie.
“I’ve developed a huge parent volunteer system, and so that’s how we run, but this is above and beyond,” Dudley said. “He had the vision, he had the picture, and I was amazed as I saw it build up.”
Fazio, who took off a week of work, and a team of volunteers spent a combined 150 hours working on a stage vehicle made out of wood, ram board, PVC pipe and Styrofoam along with decorative lamps and a hula hoop for the steering wheel. Flaps also come out from the sides and front, and the headlights illuminate when a button is pressed.
The front and back seat of the 12-foot car are sturdy enough for the actors to sit in it, but the rest is light enough to easily move it around the stage.
When the final product came together after a week-and-a-half of work, Dudley was blown away.
“I expected something that kind of looked like the car (in the movie), but I never dreamed that he would come up with something like this,” she said. “I wanted it to be cool and look like the iconic one, but this is almost the exact replica of it. I knew that he was a dedicated person, so I knew that he would not get frustrated and it would get completed, but I never dreamed that I could be so proud of a piece.”
The play began Thursday and runs tonight at 7 and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
After the car serves is purpose this weekend, Dudley said she’ll try to find a new home for it, hopefully selling it to recoup some of the costs of materials.
“I don’t have any place to store it, which breaks my heart. I don’t want to destroy it, I don’t want to dismantle it,” she said. “If anybody out there would like to purchase this car, it doesn’t run but it would be a great place to set in a lobby or something like that.”