REVIEW: "Mary Poppins" — Rose Center Theater, Westminster

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

“First of all, I would like to make one thing clear…I never explain anything.”

The 2006 stage musical version of “Mary Poppins,” which features Australian author P. L. Travers' iconic literary character, is currently in its run at Rose Center Theater, Westminster, through March 8th, offering a magical confection of this quintessential English nanny who improves the dynamics of one very dysfunctional family.

The original stage production, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Walt Disney Theatrical, ran on Broadway for over six years and used state of the art stage effects to fix wrecked kitchens, enable Mary Poppins to fly, and allow her partner in magic, Bert, to literally walk up the side of the proscenium arch. The show received seven Tony Award nominations in all, including Best Musical, winning one for Best Scenic Design.

Rose Center Managing Director, Tim Nelson, who both directs and musically directs the show, crafts a bubbly and heartwarming enactment, while drawing on the original stories in Pamela Travers’ 1933 book, employing the music and lyrics from the 1964 Disney movie by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, and is a fusion of various elements from the two. Additional songs, music and lyrics are also included from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Tawni Bridenball, last seen in “Cinderella,” strongly exhibits Mary's strict and stern demeanor, but allows Mary's well-meaning ways to come through, especially in Ms. Bridenball’s exceptional voice, producing a rich, powerful delivery and perfect diction, infused with warm, buttery tones. Purposefully, the unflappable Mary Poppins descends from the sky (by way of projection), traveling by umbrella, to tend to the Banks children, Jane (Lauren Gravitt alternating with Adrienne Morrow) and Michael (Taven Blanke), whose wretched behavior has caused a stream of previous nannies to give notice.

Mary presupposes her way through an interview and takes charge of the two rascals in quick dispatch. Her crisp, highly structured manner is a cover for the magic and imagination that wins the children over in no time. “Pish-Posh!”

But though youngsters Jane and Michael, brimming with mischief, are ostensibly her charges, it is the dyspeptic patriarch George Banks, a rigid, troubled bank officer, whose fortunes are the most altered by Poppins' influence. George's devotion to his work has left no time for family, including his wife, Winnifred, a soulfully neglected mother and spouse.

Tim Nelson's cast is as "practically perfect" as Mary Poppins herself. Chris Caputo is a splendidly starchy George Banks, with a touching portrayal of George's change from a stubborn, selfish man to one who understands the importance of family. He dutifully maintains his stern façade, but always with the faintest hint of struggle against a more tender nature.

Melissa Cook is beyond words as Winnifred, a former actress frustrated by domesticity, displaying a powerful strength and grace underneath a self-reliant woman, who is simply striving to meet her husband’s expectations. Her singing? Melodious, resonant…spell-binding, with numerous duets and solos, but one that redefines vocal dynamics: “Being Mrs. Banks.”

Song and dance man Seth Merrill is Bert, Mary's ideal, jack of al