Mary Poppins the Broadway Musical, by the Canadian College of Performing Arts April 22-30, 2016. A review.

Mary Poppins the Broadway Musical, by the Canadian College of Performing Arts April 22-30, 2016. A review.

The talented team at the Canadian College of Performing Arts has spared no effort in bringing Mary Poppins, the Broadway Musical (based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film) to life.  Filled with special effects (Peter Pokorny, Caitlen Bull), wonderful projections (Jason King), creative set design (R.J. Peters, Caitlenn Bull), beautiful costumes (Shannon Carmichael), alluring lighting (Adam Wilkinson) and accomplished singing, acting and dancing (choreography Darold Roles & Janice Tooby-MacDonald), this production has something for everyone—magic to thrill small children, songs that remind a generation of the first time they saw the film, and a cohesiveness sure to please the most demanding musical theatre fan.

Mary Poppins-event detail
Mary Poppins
features two casts, and although some of the actors appear in both shows, many of the major roles (Mary, Bert, Mr and Mrs Banks, Mrs Brill among others) are double cast, adding to the challenge.  Director Darold Roles has produced a show that retains elements familiar to many while imbuing the whole with a delicate, restrained balance—much more in keeping with our idea of British decorum than the over-the-top antics of the film.  In particular, Sydney Cochrane as Mary Poppins (alternate Julie Mombourquette) displays a determined, self-contained nature guaranteed to inspire confidence as she flies in (aereography Flying by Foy), nary a hair out of place.  Will Carr as Bert (alternate Chase Sander) is debonair and assured.  The easy familiarity between them speaks of an intriguing back story.

Set designers R.J. Peters and Caitlenn Bull have crafted a tidy and comfortable two-part, two-level home complete with study and children’s bedrooms that magically metamorphoses to become the “below stairs” kitchen (A Spoonful of Sugar) where magic happens (thanks to some projection and props wizardry) as well as the rooftops of London.  Actors negotiate stairs and steps with ease and confidence—performing from on-high without qualm.  Jason King’s projections add an additional layer, creating wallpaper and a roaring fire in the home scenes, and then adding beautiful park settings, the streets of London, and even the interior of the bank where Mr. Banks works.  Perspective is enhanced by moving the projections near and far.  Some of the moodiest moments occur at night—highlighted with Adam Wilkinson’s atmospheric lighting.  Music director Heather Burns is once again at the helm of a storied group of local musicians who often work together–resulting in a rich, complex sound most often associated with much larger ensembles

Costume designer Shannon Carmichael (in over 300 unique pieces) captures the Edwardian period in intricate detail, allowing whimsy into elements like ties and the Admiral’s military garb. The costumes during a visit to Mrs. Corry’s shop (Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious) are inspired by a multitude of countries, and toys spring to life in Playing the Game.

Ensemble dance routines capture the “wow” factor—in particular Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious with its nods to Egyptian hieroglyphics, and most definitely Step in Time—there is something about thirty plus dancers onstage tapping in precise rhythm that stirs the most sedate audiences (tap choreography Janice Tooby-MacDonald).

Overall, the cast convincingly plays characters that range in age from children to seniors handily—Melissa Kahan and Jesse Deutscher as the Banks’ children Jane and Michael are stand-outs, Forrest Elliott is a harrumphing Admiral Boom, and both Bryan Myskiw as the Bank Chairman and Kevin Barreca as Von Hussler convey the necessary gravitas.

Amber Landry’s Mrs. Banks (alternate Kira Renee) moves from timid uncertainty to fearlessness in the face of her husband Michael’s (Derry Oshust/alternate Devin Aram) troubles, while he slowly regains his child-like sense of wonder at the world, lost due to the ministrations of his harridan nanny Miss Andrew (Veronica Harland (alternate Miranda Sheepwash) in a deliciously evil cameo).

Vocally there are many delights—the soaring soprano notes of Mary Poppins (Sydney Cochrane) and Winifred Banks (Amber Landry) in Spoonful of Sugar, the plaintive tones of Feed the Birds with Ainsley Harrington (Bird Woman) and Mary Poppins, the rousing Practically Perfect (Mary Poppins, Jane and Michael)—which despite being one of the new songs by George Stiles and Andrew Drew seems as if it’s been part of the repertoire forever—and  the uplifting Let’s Go Fly a Kite (Bert, Jane and Michael) with notes that skip up and  down the scale. Brimstone and Treacle (Veronica Harder as Miss Andrew and Sydney Bourquette as Mary Poppins) is clever and funny comedic singing—with swoops and dips that drew much laughter.

Mary Poppins is an outstanding and rambunctious performance; a fine example of dedicated ensemble work filled with lovely moments of discovery and magic. The 2015-2016 year ends on a high note for the Canadian College of Performing Arts.

Mary Poppins the Broadway Musical, 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
Co-created by Cameron Mackintosh

Presented by the Canadian College of Performing Arts at the McPherson Playhouse
April  22-30, 2016
Tickets: $52.50 adult, $47.50 senior, $42.50 child online or by phone 250.386.6121
Directed and choreographed by Darold Roles
Music Director Heather Burns; Tap Choreography Janice Tooby-MacDonald; Co-Choreographer: Caitlenn Bull

Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary ticket to attend the opening of Mary Poppins.

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