Practically Perfect in Every Way
The 2013 season is ending on a very high note at Huron Country Playhouse with the popular musical Mary Poppins. Not only do the many excellent singers and dancers in the show hit all the high notes, but Mary herself flies high, as well.
The stage story of Mary Poppins, for the most part, follows the same plot lines as the popular Disney movie, which, by the way is almost 50 years old! The Banks children are running wild: their mother is distracted and their father is gruff, so the children feel neglected. They go through several nannies before Mary Poppins blows in to straighten them out, and love them at the same time. But in the stage version Mrs. Banks is not a suffragette, instead by the end of the show she demonstrates what a strong woman she is. The stage version also has a delightful trip to a store that sells words, which is not seen in the movie.
As Drayton Entertainment says in their slogan “Believe in the Magic”, and their production of Mary Poppins is filled with magic which is far more spell-binding than any film. Mary arrives out of nowhere, and then proceeds to unpack her carpet bag. She lifts the most amazing things out of it, including a hall tree and a very large plant. Then she and Jane unfold a quilt, and suddenly her bed appears!
In the kitchen, the furniture magically repairs itself. Bert, the chimney sweep, cartwheels over roof tops and leaps through the air from one chimney to the next. And Mary magically flies across the stage!
The dancers in this show create magic, too. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is inventive in the way they present that amazing word, and provides a very energetic ensemble number. The high kicks have never been so high! Step in Time brings together all the chimney sweeps in a lively tap dance. Kudos to choreographer Leigh Constantine, and especially to the dancers with their amazing energy.
Jayme Armstrong, a Huron Country Playhouse favourite, is “practically perfect” as Mary Poppins. Regular patrons will recognize Jayme as Guinevere in Camelot, Rosemary in How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, and Judy in 9 to 5. The role of Bert is played by the charming Mark Ledbetter, who previously played it on Broadway.
Jayne Lewis is the bird lady who tugs at your heart strings and also the terrifying evil nanny Miss Andrews. She is amazing in both roles, and belts out the frightening “Brimstone and treacle” song with a powerful voice.
Karen Wood as the housekeeper Mrs. Brill provides much laughter with her cheeky attitude. Also noteworthy are the children who take turns sharing the roles of Jane and Michael: we saw Jayden Greig and Avery Kadish on opening night, who were excellent, and I hear Trek Buccino and Hadley Mustakas are excellent too.
In fact the entire cast makes magic with this show – a memorable evening for any child – or any adult, for that matter.
Mary Poppins continues with eight shows a week until August 31 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Based on the stories of P. L. Travers & the Walt Disney film
Music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellowes
Directed by Nigel West
Choreography by Leigh Constantine
Music Direction by Elizabeth Baird
Performed by Jayme Armstrong, Mark Ledbetter, James Kall, Jackie Mustakas, Trek Buccino Hadley Mustakas, Jayden Greig, Avery Kadish et al.
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
August 7 to 31, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson