THEATRE REVIEW: The Company Theatre’s ‘Mary Poppins’

THEATRE – Welcome to the World of Walt Disney at The Company Theatre’s Christmas show, “Mary Poppins.” The show is based on P.L. Travers books and the 1964 movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. It shows anything can and will happen at #17 Cherry Hill Lane. The Broadway version opened November 16, 2006, closed on March 3, 2013 and ran for 2619 performances. The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. It is now a full Broadway musical with 44 major awards worldwide. The magical story of Mary Poppins, the magical nanny who flies into the troubled lives of Banks children will dazzle and delight audiences of all ages. Bert, the chimney sweep welcomes the audience into the world of Mary Poppins with “Chim Chim Cheree” and we continue to follow Mary’s exploits throughout all of London. She charms each person she comes into contact with back in London in 1910. The talent of the cast along with the special flying effects capture the hearts of every audience member, inducing them to leap to their feet before the curtain call. Directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman outdo themselves with this musical extravaganza with expert musical direction by Michael Joseph and stunning energetic choreography by Sally Ashton Forrest. Bravo on a job extremely well done!

Mary Poppins 2As I said during the summer musical, this is my 12th year of reviewing epic musicals at Company Theatre and they never disappoint me. Once again “Mary Poppins” is one more feather in their caps. Zoe and Jordie block and stage the show perfectly. They obtain high quality performances from each of their performers. They blend the comic and dramatic moments together splendidly especially the scene where the children give their father their money. Not a dry eye in the theater after that. Michael taught the vocalists their tongue twisting lyrics and gorgeous melodies and harmonies. He also conducts a superior twelve piece orchestra and the harmonic blend between cast and orchestra shines, too. Sally’s dance numbers sparkle and shine during the whole show. The most impressive dance numbers include the tap dance for “Step in Time”, the Toy Dance for “Playing the Game” and the dancing statue with the “Jolly Holiday” dancers. Leading this large cast is Christina Pecce. She is a gorgeous brunette and embodies this role of this magical nanny perfectly while captivating everyone in the audience. Christina’s glorious crystal clear soprano voice soars in “Practically Perfect”, “Spoon Full of Sugar”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, “Feed the Birds” and “Anything Can Happen” with this latter number inducing a standing ovation. Her acting and dancing are as marvelous as her vocals and her interactions with the whole cast is astonishing, too. Christina is phenomenal in this role and her flying all over the theatre is astounding. Michael Warner also shines as Bert, the chimney sweep. He narrates the start of the show with “Chim Chim Cheree” and later on in the show it turns into a huge show stopping dance number. It’s also a duet between Bert and Mary, too. Michael displays his astounding tenor voice in “Jolly Holiday”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “Step in Time” which is a fantastic tap dance number. His climbing and somersaulting over the roof during “Step in Time” is fabulous, too. Michael and Christina make the perfect leads for this sensational show. I first reviewed Michael as the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz” at the Orpheum Theater in 2003.

The supporting players do a splendid job with their roles, too. Matt Maggio plays the father, Mr. Banks. He displays his strong voice in “Cherry Tree Lane” with the family as well as in his two solo numbers, “A Man Has his Dreams” when he realizes he has changed from being an idealistic youth and in “Good For Nothing” when he is depressed after being suspended from the bank. Matt makes a transition from strict martinet into a more loving and caring father by show’s end with Mary’s magic touch especially poignant is when he hugs both children after they give him their money. Stephanie Mann shines as Mrs. Banks. She displays a powerful voice in “Being Mrs. Banks” when she thinks she let down her husband and children and in “Anything Can Happen” when she decides to follow her heart and defend her husband. The two children are played by Alexa Cohen as Jane and Benjamin Manning as Michael and they excel in these roles. Their acting is impeccable and their fantastic voices are heard “Perfect Nanny”, “Practically Perfect”, “Jolly Holiday”, “Spoonful of Sugar”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “Step in Time.” They also dance up a storm with the adults. Alexa and Benjamin are on stage almost the whole time and remain in character all night long. Michael’s final line “I love you Mary Poppins.” leaves you in tears at the close of the show. Catherine Oliviere and Charlie Solari play the roles at alternating performances.

The villainess in this show is Miss Andrews wonderfully played by Jen Almeida. She is a hoot as this malevolent woman who rejects Mary Poppins spoonful of sugar to her own elixir “Brimstone and Treacle” with castor oil. Miss Andrews is a tyrant and a nightmare of a nanny who frightened George as a child. Her voice soars up to a high B in her song! Jen and Christina do a reprise of the song when Mary finally banishes her from Jane and Michael’s lives forever. Her comical walk as this harridan is perfect. Corinne Mason plays the kindly Mrs. Corry who runs a candystore in Act 1. This is where the show stopping dance for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is performed with absolute precision by one and all.Barbara Baumgarten tugs at your heartstrings as the Bird Woman who sings the poignant “Feed the Birds” with Mary Poppins. The Bird Lady teaches Michael how to be kind to others. Christopher Spencer wins many laughs as the pratfalling butler. His antics are priceless. Kudos to the whole cast and crew who do a magnificent job with this heartwarming musical extravaganza. So for a marvelous and magical rendition of this phenomenal Disney musical, be sure to catch “Mary Poppins” before she flies out of town for good. What a fabulous way to celebrate the Christmas season! x

“Mary Poppins” (27 November – 20 December) COMPANY THEATRE @ 34 Accord Park Drive, NORWELL MA (781) 871-2787

by Tony Annicone

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