Review: MARY POPPINS (The Broadway Musical)

by Lynn on November 19, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Young People’s Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film

Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

Book by Julian Fellowes

New songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe

Directed by Thom Allison

Choreography by Kerry Gage

Music direction by Wayne Gwillim

Set by Brandon Kleiman

Costumes by William Layton

Lighting by Jason Hand

Sound by William Fallon

Cast: Jak Barradell

Jewelle Blackman

Kyle Blair

Shane Carty

Jarret Cody

Jessie Cox

Starr Domingue

Kyle Golemba

Aisha Jarvis

Haley Lewis

Jordan Mah

Jade Repeta

Vanessa Sears

Sarah Lynn Strange

A joyful, sublime production.

The Story. Sure this is a musical partially based on the Walt Disney film but boy is it prickly. Mary Poppins is a most peculiar Nanny. She specializes in dysfunctional families and the Banks family is her latest project. The father, Mr. Banks is an uptight man who works in a bank and who needs a bit of fun in his life but it was bashed out of him by his mean-spirited nanny when he was a boy. His wife, Mrs. Banks only wants to support him but he doesn’t want to worry her so he tells her nothing of his work at the bank. The children are Michael, who wants nothing more than to fly kites with his father, and Jane who probably just wants a hug from him. Enter Mary Poppins.

She instills discipline in the Jane and Michael. They have activities she finds very important. They take walks in the park; meet Bert the chimney sweep; learn to appreciate nature, respect people they think are lesser; learn how to play and have fun and learn to crack their father’s stern exterior.

 The Production. Brandon Kleiman’s set is efficient in that the set pieces slide on and off with ease. A door frame, a fence, a desk, simple stuff to set a scene. Director Thom Allison stages with ease and confidence. The pace is quick, economical and gets the job done. His direction also brings out the prickliness in the script and the neediness of all the characters involved.

Vanessa Sears is a wonder as Mary Poppins. She is prim, proper, straight backed, matter of fact and precise in her discipline of Jane and Michael. She is also liberal with her sense of whimsy. Who else would think of using sugar to help medicine go down? She takes Jane and Michael to the park to play. She shows them a different, more inclusive way to have fun. She instructs them to respect nature and the people in it. No person should be shunned because they are dirty or poor. Those children learn that in a shot from this formidable teacher. Bert the chimney sweep loves her—how could he not. Michael loves her—how could he not—and says so. Sears’ Mary Poppins takes all this with a slight, tight smile, but she doesn’t say “I love you too” to Michael. I just love that telling moment. She has a job to do and it is not to fall in love with everybody with whom she comes in contact. It’s to fix this dysfunctional family and she does it with strict kindness, consideration and a kite. And she sings like a dream.

Kyle Blair plays Bert with a gracious ease. He is laid-back but always present. And he sings and dances beautifully as does the whole cast.

Shane Carty is such a fine actor. He plays Mr. Banks as a confined man who can’t bend. He is constricted by a life of no hugs or affection starting with his parents and going on to a horror of a nanny. He wanted to play but had no chance. Then miraculously he married and had children but didn’t know what to do with them. He had no experience. Thank heaven for Mary Poppins. Carty is impatient, irritated, frustrated, but deep inside him is a glint of kindness and that makes all the difference. When his children teach him to play, he blossoms. It’s lovely seeing that transformation. Helping him along to being a better husband and parent is Jewell Blackman as Mrs. Banks. This is a woman who wants to be an equal partner with her husband while he doesn’t want her to worry. She teaches him that worry can be overcome with pluck and grit.

Comment. Mary Poppins (The Broadway Musical) is a perfect show for the holidays, any day, families, children, adults and those in between. It’s joyous, not sugar sweet, touching, and thought provoking.

Produced by Young People’s Theatre

Opened: Nov. 8, 2018.

Closes: Jan. 6, 2019.

Running Time: 90 minutes.


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