WPCNR STAGE DOOR. Theatrical Review by John F. Bailey. May 19, 2014
Lauren Blackman as Mary Poppins soars down from the ceiling lights in the Westchester Broadway Theatre revival of Mary Poppins, charming with her sugary affirmation of life, righting injustices and turning around attitudes to the delight of the audience of all ages.
Ms. Blackman recreates ” the Perfect Nanny,” even resembles Julie Andrews of the Disney movie –but delivers Poppins classics with satiny contralto authority refreshingly different from the Andrews soprano. Ms. Blackman uplifts the Mary Poppins favorites leisurely, confidently with smooth phrasing, embellishing, polishing and projecting the familiar melodic delights in the most proper way.
Spoonful of Sugar, Jolly Holiday, and her signature song, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, are staged with colorful costumes and poetic choereography conceived seamlessly by Director and Choreographer Richard Stafford. The show’s scenes are a visual and vocal pleasure to enjoy–and will keep those young whipper-snappers’ attention.
The children handled their lines without peer, understandable diction, landing their many laugh lines with vaudeville timing, savvy and pro style—waiting for the laughs.
Children attending any Mary Poppins performance will be delighted at these plucky performers who are as entertaining as Ms. Blackman. The trio of Blackman, Michellle and Gabriel had very good chemistry. (Jane Shearin and Brandon Singel are the alternate child actor team, whom I suspect will deliver no less!)
Leo Ash Evans as Mary Poppins’ foil Bert, the chimney sweep (played by Dick Van Dyke roin the movie), plays the role of semi-narrator of this fantasy world where Nannies can fly—but so can he. He floats acrobatically on the rooftops in one of many lyrical and engaging numbers in this show leading the chimneysweeps in Step in Time in act II. Evans is charming in his number Chim Chim Cheree (below)
Leisha Mather and Joseph Dellger as Winifred and George Banks (the banker husband) are the objects of Mary Poppins’ mission to Cherry Tree Lane. Her assignment: get George Banks to appreciate and love his family and children in a warmer way. Banks you see is absorbed in his work. (This is the perfect musical to take your investment banker or lawyer husband to) Banks is obsessed with order and the victim of a cruel nanny in his childhood, whom he calls “The Holy Terror.”
When Banks is upset by his children coming to his bank, Mary decides to leave and he brings back “The Holy Terror” played with slinky, sly menace and grouchy chuckling panache by Jan Neuberger, whose flamboyant singing of Brimstone and Treacle is the very very model of what a nanny should not be.
The Banks children run away into the park. As the Banks search for the children, Mary Poppins flies to the rescue and returns to the household to confront “The Holy Terror” The pas de deux between Neuberger and Blackman as The Terror and Poppins confront each other is magical in literally making The Holy Terror fly away–and she does.
George Banks meanwhile is anticipating losing his job and reflects on his life and the Poppins message of appreciating those who love you, takes hold.
Mary Poppins delivers her timeless message that Anything Can Happen and there is always hope. And we make our own magic the way we choose to live our life.
Top numbers in this show to enjoy are Precision and Order (performed by a most precise and orderly banking staff); the wonderful carousel scene in the park where after Ms. Blackman engineers a rapid costume change, Blackman sings Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; Jolly Holiday where Mary, Bert, the Banks children cavort with statues who come to life; Feed the Birds a song in this musical to promote kindness features the haunting voice of Laura Cable as the Bird Woman, dueting with Ms. Blackman.
Ms. Cable’s scene with Ms. Blackman, like most scenes in this show is the magic that theatre is for and the only place where you see magic happen before your eyes.
Congratulations to Westchester Broadway Theatre, in its 40th anniversary year of dinner theatre in Westchester, for staging this very complex technical and artistically challenging show, eight years after the original opened for its long Broadway run.
The show opened in November 2006. It was nominated for 7 Tonys and ran for six years on Broadway playing 2,619 performances, before giving way to Disney’s Aladdin.
Now you can see it again through July 27. Call the box office at 914-592-2222 or visit the WBT website at www.BroadwayTheatre.com