Mary Poppins, a family favorite for decades, came flying into Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center as the opening production to their eleventh season. This combines P.L. Travers’ book series and Walt Disney’s film into one stage musical. It includes all the most renowned musical scores from Disney’s film such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” along with additional scores.
This making is based around the dysfunctional Banks family – primarily the two children: Jane and Michael. After many failed nannies, one answers Jane and Michael’s call and turns the whole house upside down. But despite the abnormality of her, all of them love Mary Poppins as she fixes the family in her own charming way.
Mary Poppins is a fun-filled yet stern nanny. Amanda Gross, who played the titular character, portrayed these two sides by appearing to George (Allan Snyder) and Winifred (Erika Strasburg) Banks as a fitting nanny to the children. Although, when she is alone with the children, the audience learns that she has tricks up her sleeve that win over their hearts. Amanda Gross won over my heart as she efficiently displayed these opposing sides of her role.
A pleasant addition to this show was the flying effects that were a part of the technical aspects. Mary Poppins is renowned for coming into a scene from the sky with her umbrella in hand. But, it was remarkable to see it onstage! Even Bert, played by Mathew Fedorek, used the flying effects in the song “Step in Time.” Fedorek’s use of the suspensions had me holding onto the edge of my seat as he walked up the proscenium of the stage, up to the top, and back down the other side. Praise to Mathew Fedorek for executing that stunt so well.
All the actors and actresses were very well trained in being historically correct within this show. They kept up with a consistent British dialect, since this takes place during the industrial period of England, which was towards the end of the Victorian Era. It helped the audience pick out a sense of place within the show.
The most well-trained actor, though, was the precious little dog, Lily, that the Center casted as Mrs. Lark’s dog, Willoughby. Lily remained still in the arms of whoever was holding her within that moment. She made no noise or signs of struggle each time the audience saw her. Lily was the love of every young child watching.
A minor issue I had was with the musical structure itself was the first time “A Spoonful of Sugar” is sung, it takes place in the kitchen and not in the bedroom like it is in the film. The song also happens very abruptly within that kitchen setting. I feel as though it would’ve been more suiting if the writers for the musical would have kept it within the bedroom, instead of changing the scenery.
What I did enjoy about the kitchen scene, though, were the props used within it. Robertson Ay, played by Zane Gagliardi, ends up having a fainting spell before “A Spoonful of Sugar” begins and knocks over hanging pans, destroys china in a pantry, then crashes into a table, splitting it. Shortly after the song, Mary Poppins uses her magic and you see pans float up onto their racks, china and shelving restoring itself to a straight position, and table sliding back into one piece. The technicality behind the breakable but reparable props was a wonder to witness!
I was impressed by the way Gregory Buck, who played Neleus, remained rock-still as a statue during the first park scene. I did not realize he was real until he jumped down from the pedestal. He was graceful as he performed turns, leaps, and the such till he returned to his static pose. Despite all the movement, he remained still the second time around.
As far as choreography goes, almost every song had a dance number to it. Jennifer Verba, Mary Poppins choreographer and Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School’s head of Dance, was the director for these creations. The dancers were poised, elegant, and expressed the song being performed through their feet. The more memorable choreography was during “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
At the ending of the show, Amanda Gross walked over towards the corner of the stage and became suspended once again with the ZFX flying effects and ascended over the audience. It was a fairy-tale sight, seeing her gradually flying over the rows of spectators to the balcony seats with an enormous smile on her face. She eventually was harnessed up, and lifted back down to the stage for the end acknowledgements.
You can see Mary Poppins at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland Pennsylvania from October 13-15 and 20-22. Tickets range from $15, $18, and $20 and can be purchased at lincolnparkarts.org.
Photos courtesy of Zac Cageao and the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center.