Mary Poppins: Lively production works well with script

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Categories: Community Theatre

Photo: Ain’t Seen Noth’n Yet

Mary Poppins
Music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellowes
Additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Ain’t Seen Noth’n Yet (ASNY) Production
Directed by Jennifer Fontaine

By any standards, Mary Poppins is a complex project. Originally, she was the ideal nanny imagined by the British-born, Australian writer Pamela Lyndon Travers (aka Helen Lyndon Goff). Conjured up in her 1934 stories, she represented a form of escape from a difficult childhood. Then, the flying nanny became the sugarcoated heroine of the 1964 Disney movie, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

In the 2004 stage musical, Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) bases his book on a fusion of the Travers’ stories and the Disney movie, while George Stiles and Anthony Drewe added new songs to the original group by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman.

A little later, a counterpoint to the spoonful of sugar materialized in the form of the 2013 movie Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, as the prickly P.L. Travers objected to the direction that Walt Disney wanted to take Mary Poppins.

In general, the result is that audiences have preconceived notions about the magical nanny and the show that they are about to see. Specifically, a director has to cope with the dark side of the story — in many ways this is a tale about a dysfunctional family — while preserving the charm of a fairy tale, combined with the relatively minor technical difficulty of having Mary Poppins, complete with carpet bag and umbrella, flying across the stage.

And there are two other challenges: not only does the show, as presented by Ain’t Seen Noth’n Yet, have a massive cast of 48, an orchestra of 12 and a crew of 48, but director Jennifer Fontaine has also chosen to double-cast several of the main roles. In addition, the length of the show almost guarantees that the youngest members of the audience are likely to wriggle at least some of the time.

Despite all this, under musical direction from John McGovern and some interesting choreography from Jacqueline Armstrong, Fontaine’s lively ASNY production works well most of the time.

Samantha De Benedet delivers the appropriate mix of warmth and spikiness in the title role, seems to have no difficulty with standing straight and tall during flight and sings extremely well. Axandre Lemours gives Bert the chimney sweep an attractive gentleness and warmth, as well as a consistent cockney accent.

Lauren Samojlenko is suitably cheeky as young Michael Banks, while Madeline Hore-Kelman is clear about her characterization as big sister, Jane. Scott Shepherd copes well with the transitions required in moving from remote, stern father to loving Dad and Madeline Hunter, while periodically singing too quietly, does have a lovely vocal tone.

Such production numbers as Step in Time and Jolly Holiday are handled with verve and joy and scene changes generally smooth.

The ASNY production of Mary Poppins may not be Practically Perfect, in part because the material pulls in conflicting directions and is frequently repetitive, but certainly sweeps aside most of the difficulties with a Spoonful of Sugar.

 

Mary Poppins continues at Centrepointe Theatre to February 4.

Director: Jennifer Fontaine, assisted by Sarah Pion

Music Director: John McGovern

Technical director: Scotty Mitchell

Set: Tony Walker

Lighting: Don Douglas

Sound: John Cybanski

Choreographer: Jacqueline Armstrong

 

Cast:

Mary Poppins…………………………………Samantha De Benedet (Vivian Melsness)

Bert……………………………………………Axandre Lemours (Andrew Galligan)

Mrs. Banks……………………………………Madeline hunter (Rachel Duchesneau)

Mr. Banks…………………………………….Scott Shepherd

Jane Banks……………………………………Madeline Hore-Kelman (Sierra Levesque)

Michael Banks………………………………..Lauren Samojlenko (Jeremy Kitagawa)

Mrs. Brill……………………………………..Maureen McGovern (Sharon McGuirl)

Miss Andrew…………………………………Misty Banyard

Ensemble: Sarah Algozino, Susan Amey, Misty Banyard, Maya Chow, Sarah Couineau, Emma Deeks, Stephanie Dore, Antonio DiRienzo, Jesse Gervais, Maya Harrie-Harb, Jessica Holmes, Emmett Workman, Cameron Hunt, Maureen Johnson, Andrea Kinsley, Irwin Kreisman, Marc Lessard, Kinsey Malleck, Sydney Maloney, Alison Manning, Allan McDonald, Sue McGahey, Kathryn McLaren, McKenna Mellon, Rob Millinkovich, Nadia Pasqua, Kathleen Renaud, Kaylee Ross, Rachel Rumstein, Ella Samojlenko, Emily Samojlenko, Brian Scheter, Xander Sen, Niamh Webber

 

Orchestra:

Conductor……………………………………John McGovern

Flute/Piccolo…………………………………Mike Tremblay

Clarinet………………………………………Dave Renaud

Cello…………………………………………Steve Smith

Trumpet………………………………………Michelle Ash

Horns…………………………………………Keith Estabrooks, Guy Edrington

Trombone…………………………………….Mark Ferguson

Keyboards…………………………………….Kellina Gehrels, Wendy Berkelaar

Bass…………………………………………..Tom McMahon

Percussion…………………………………….Pierre Huneault


Past Reviews