Mary Poppins (Directed by Megan Watson) is an instant hit for the holiday season. The Grand Theatre always goes above and beyond with their selection of holiday shows. Mary Poppins is a great selection because it is accessible to individuals of all ages. Last years’ production of A Christmas Carol was amazing, but the language may have been a bit too complicated for young children.
Before we begin: I am a skeptic of big Disney shows, but I know that they are a great night out and an even better introduction to the magical world of theatre. Please do yourself a favour, sit back, and embrace the spectacle that is the Disney musical!
The show is a classic, so I’ll keep the plot review short! George (Ben Carlson) and Winifred (Alexis Gordan) Banks are in desperate need of a nanny for their two wild children, Michael (Hayden Baertson) and Jane (Abi Verhaeghe). The mysterious and magical Mary Poppins (Deborah Hay) soon appears to answer the parents’ call for help. The children and their newfound nanny go on many adventures, along with the quirky and caring Bert (Mark Uhrie), to learn the values of being kind to others. Eventually, the Banks family is brought closer together than ever before.
The show brings forward all of the lovable and catchy songs from the Disney movie, including Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Let’s Go Fly a Kite, and Chim Chim Cher-ee. The dancing (Choreography by Stephen Cota) is a great compliment to the well-known songs. The chimney sweeps had a large and elaborate dance break during Step in Time. Bert even “flies” and does flips in the air, an incredible feat on the part of the individuals who set up the rigging. An even more unique dance involved the children' dolls coming to life and moving limpy in time with the music.
Alexis Gordon steals the show. She has a beautiful and strong voice. Although she is not given her own song, she makes the most out of the solo lines and harmonies she is given. Her rich sound compliments and enhances those around it. Gordon flawlessly creates a well-intentioned mother who strives to make her family perfect. It is no surprise that she has graced the stages of Stratford in the past.
Phoebe Hu, who plays Mrs. Brill, and Giovanni Spina, who plays Robertson Ay, make a fantastic comedic duo. Combine the maid who has seen too much and the footman who can’t seem to do anything right, and you’ve got a recipe for some hilarious scenes. Plus, their voices are shockingly beautiful.
The performance of Jan Alexandra Smith must be mentioned as well. She played major roles in the Grand’s productions of A Christmas Carol and Vigilante, and she now takes on the supporting roles of Bird Woman and Miss Andrew. Smith’s ability to fill different roles is incredible. Bird Woman is a simple, poor lady, but Miss Andrew is every child’s worst nightmare. Smith is always a person to watch.
Projections (by Jamie Nesbitt) were used to help create the setting of the show. Each projection was spectacular and helped make the show magical. Rooftops is shown during the chimney sweep scenes, hot-air balloon wallpaper is projected in the children’s room, and music notes grace the walls in a “word shop.”
Only a few small errors could be found in this production. First, during a bank scene, one of the ensemble members’ fake moustaches fell off. The recovery was quick, so the mistake was barely recognizable. Additionally, there was a small set up error in the children’s bedroom. A window was placed above the fireplace where a chimney should be located.
However, the set design (by Lorenzo Savoini) still proved to be elaborate in all other scenes. One major highlight was the Banks’ kitchen where a shelf full of plates breaks and Mary Poppins magically puts it back together.
Mary Poppins is the perfect show to share with your family. The production showcases everything that makes a theatre experience magical. Set aside your holiday shopping and spend a few hours letting your mind travel to a world of magical nannies, dancing statues, and lighthearted fun!
For more information, please visit the Grand Theatre’s website: http://grandtheatre.com/event/disneys-mary-poppins