REVIEW: Mary Poppins - The Academy for the Performing Arts
Updated: Jun 20
"...an eye-popping musical delight for all ages!"
At the Huntington Beach Union High School Historic Auditorium and Bell Tower this month, the 2018-19 season is literally flying higher than ever with APA’s latest musical, “Mary Poppins.” The family-friendly production is an eye-popping musical delight and captures the hearts and imagination of both young and old.
Having been one of the most popular Disney movies of all time, enchanting audiences over five decades, the Academy for the Performing Arts has spared no effort or talent to bring this Disney classic Broadway version to its stage. In fact, the musical is a lovely feast for the eyes and ears, an endearing mixture of irresistible story, unforgettable songs, breathtaking dance numbers, and astonishing stagecraft. The sets are rich and lavish, the costumes are gorgeous and the special effects are definitely a sight to see. Even grown-ups can learn a lesson from the nanny who advises that "Anything can happen if you let it."
Based on the delightful stories of P.L. Travers, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, “Mary Poppins” was nominated for nine Olivier awards in London and seven TONY Awards 2007, including Best Musical. Original music and lyrics are by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The book is by Julian Fellowes with new songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
The cast features Allison Bossart and Marlee Tierney sharing the role of Mary Poppins, Jack Borenstein and Sean McCrimmon as Bert, Jordan Halloran and Patrick McCormick as George Banks, Sarah Bielicki and Cassidy Love as Winifred Banks with Olivia Aniceto, Joseph Cobb, and Melayna Lasky, Kyler Naef, interchangeable as the Banks children. The production boasts an especially plentiful, strong, and well-drilled ensemble, comprised of cast and crew members who are all students enrolled in the Academy for the Performing Arts.
Opening night, October 20th, turned Ms. Tierney in the title role. Marlee Tierney is the total embodiment of Mary Poppins. She's sweet, yet firm. Fun, but businesslike when it's time to be. She's a bundle of energy with an extraordinary vocal range, a spring in her straight-backed step and a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
As Bert (Mary Poppins’ chimney sweep pal, played by the rakishly, charming Jack Borenstein) introduces the audience to 17 Cherry Tree Lane where precision and order rule, the family is saying goodbye to Katie Nanna, one of six nannies to abruptly leave in the last four months. George and Winifred Banks (Jordan Halloran and Cassidy Love) are father and mother, and although the parents are also slightly dysfunctional, they realize the children are without proper supervision from a reliable nanny. There are two other family servants in the household - one is their cook, Mrs. Brill (Sheridan Scarborough), and the other their quirky odd-job man, Robertson Ay (Seth Merrill), who both provide plenty of scene-stealing comic enhancement throughout the show.
Jack Borenstein and Sean McCrimmon as "Bert"
Jane and Michael decide to write their own advertisement for a new governess, and almost as soon as the torn-up pieces of their efforts are swooshed out of the chimney, there she is: Mary Poppins...flowered hat, sensible shoes with umbrella intact - the perfect nanny. Having every confidence in her own qualifications and merits, she accepts the position. With Mary Poppins in charge you can expect fun and games, medicine that tastes like strawberry ice, messes that clean themselves up, and that fabulous, bottomless carpet bag that holds all of Mary's worldly belongings, including a tall potted plant, a table lamp, a wall mirror, and even her hat rack.
Playing the young children, Jane and Michael (both very strong performances), were Melayna Lasky and Kyler Naef. Ms. Lasky's prissy Jane, who is "rather inclined to giggle and doesn't put things away,” was exactly the balance needed for Naef's goofball high-jinks as Michael, who was found to be "extremely stubborn and suspicious." Mary's own measurement reads, "Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way." But wait - I know whut ya thinkin' mate - there are plenty of hard lessons to be learned along the way, and apparently, not only for the children. But they all go down just as easily as, well…sugar.
The production is bursting with typical Disney magic and fun. One of the most magical moments is when Mary, Bert and the kids enter the world of Bert's painting, when the stage transforms from drab to dazzling in a colorful adventure in the park. Matthew Rangel leads the park action with the kids as Neleus, a marble marvel statue that magically comes to life, in the big ensemble dance number, “Jolly Holiday,” that many times results in the whole theatre singing along.
There is an extraordinary amount of expertise visible onstage and off, strikingly directed and choreographed by the team of Tim Nelson and Diane Makas. Orchestra and Music Direction was skillfully performed by Gregg Gilboe, featuring your favorite Poppins tunes, including “Cherry Tree Lane,” “Practically Perfect” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” The show's big production standout numbers are spectacular with rich lighting, clever costumes and amazing choreography, particularly in "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," that showcases mind-boggling precision-perfect movements. Mrs. Cory, played by Monique Miley, along with her sweet shop staff, are wonderfully outrageous with a stage full of high-powered energy.
One of the most anticipated highlights of the show is the chimney sweeps' tap number, "Step in Time," that features prodigious timing and a gravity-defying dance solo by Bert. Another treat,“A Spoonful of Sugar,” everybody’s favorite, is one of the songs that helped make “Mary Poppins” one of the biggest successes Walt Disney Studios has ever experienced, and arguably one of the most popular soundtracks ever created.
A notable featured performance was by Mia Buck, playing the Bird Woman covered in a patchwork of old shawls, with pockets stuffed with bags of crumbs for the birds. Ms. Buck captured plenty of misty eyes in the theatre with her rendition of “Feed The Birds.” Although many productions cast the roles of Miss Andrew and the Bird Woman with only one actor, in this show they are not. The fantastic bit of nastiness called “Brimstone and Treacle,” a dueling duet sung by Miss Andrew (Zoe Rivers), childhood nanny of Mr. Banks, and Mary, presents the perfect nanny antithesis to the effervescent Mary Poppins - definitely a most favorite audience scene!
Scenic Design, supervised by Joe Batte, along with projection effects by Savanna Starks, gave an authentic look to old London housetops and dwellings. The Hair and Makeup crew (Mia Buck, Bella Diersing, Quinn Ewing, Karen Fisher, Darla Jacobs and Abby Richardson), along with Costume expert Christina Perez amply deserves much praise as well, whose proficiency helps give the audience the feeling of a professional Broadway show. Sound is by Marley Timmerman, Lighting by Faith Burke and Stage Management by Staciabella Roy.
Overall, “Mary Poppins” is an infectious, magical world packed with enchantment where statues come to life, a finger twitch can bake a cake, a carpetbag is a bottomless treasure-trove, a chimney sweep defies the laws of gravity and Mary Poppins can fly over rooftops with her charmed umbrella. The quality of the acting, singing and dancing, along with the brilliance of the show guarantees audiences will leave with a spring in their step. But only four more performances remain, beginning this Thursday evening at 7:30pm, October 25‐28, 2018. Get your tickets while you can at www.hbapa.org
Highly, Highly Recommended! Actually, flying very high indeed!
National Youth Arts