‘Mary Poppins’ at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is ‘Practically Perfect’
December 16, 2015
Filed under Curtain Call
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Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre opened their winter show, “Mary Poppins,” on Friday, Dec. 11. This show, directed and choreographed by Anne Nicole Beck, was an absolute triumph for the theatre. This is a wonderful holiday show for children and adults alike. “Mary Poppins,” based on the 1964 movie of the same title, is about a magic nanny who arrives at Cherry Tree Lane to care for two mischievous children, Jane and Michael Banks. As she works her magic, the entire family blossoms and learns to care for each other no matter what the circumstances are.
The entire cast of this show was truly exceptional. Devan Mathias was the perfect Mary Poppins, with a lovely, clear tone to her voice and tremendous acting abilities. As Mary Poppins is one of the most challenging roles in all of musical theatre, requiring extremely strong acting, singing, and dancing abilities, it was very important that the theatre pick an extraordinarily talented performer for this role, and with Mathias, they truly did. Carrie Neal as Winifred Banks was another standout cast member. Her voice carried a lot of strong emotion and had a beautiful tone, particularly in “Being Mrs. Banks” in the first act. Anjali Rooney, who played Jane Banks, also had an exceptional voice for her age, being only 12 and already having a more powerful belting capacity than some performers who are twice her age. I also really enjoyed the performance of J. Stuart Mill as George Banks. He did a wonderful job showing a change of character, going from a hard-hearted, uncaring man to a loving, gentle father. His voice was also quite impressive, although he tended to use “talk-singing” a lot, which was not nearly as good as when he went for it and sang the notes full-out. Jeremy Shivers-Brimm was the strongest actor I have seen portray the role of Bert; many actors struggle with capturing the fun, light-hearted nature of the character, however, he portrayed the character in a flawlessly natural way.
Some very impressive smaller roles were Robertson Ay, portrayed by Nicholas Roman, Miss Andrew, portrayed by Jennifer D. Sutton, and Valentine, portrayed by David Cunningham. Roman had a well-defined character stance, meaning his character always walked a certain way, stood a certain way and acted a certain way. The character stance he picked was wonderful for his role, and it really impressed me how consistent he was throughout the show. Sutton definitely portrayed the terrifying, cynical nature of Miss Andrew very well, but she did it in a comical way that kept the lighthearted tone of the show intact. Cunningham was excellently creepy as Valentine, and his solos in “Playing the Game” sounded wonderful. The cast altogether was very strong and there was no apparent “weak link” in the show.
Despite the talent of everyone in the cast, I did notice a few kinks that had yet to be worked out. I saw the show on opening night, and opening night is quite often one of the most difficult nights for performances, but there were still a few moments that stuck out a bit too much. For instance, Mathias had a fairly major costume malfunction and couldn’t get offstage to fix it. The malfunction was very obvious to the audience and produced a very awkward tension. However, I strongly commend Mathias for getting through the scene without breaking character once, and Jeremy Shivers-Brimm, who was on stage with her, for trying to fix it without causing a huge distraction during the dance. There was also a prop that unintentionally broke onstage, but it was not of huge significance to the plot, so it was fairly easy to ignore. In addition, there were a couple moments where the singers got a bit off from the orchestra, however, most of these mistakes were fixed very quickly.
The set for this show was incredible. All of the set pieces were extremely detailed and well-decorated, and since the show has a lot of setting transitions (which were all executed seamlessly and very impressively) there were quite a few set pieces, but they all looked amazing and there were no set problems at any point throughout the show.
Most of the songs in the show were executed extremely well, and the intense choreography looked amazing. The only issue was that the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” reprise featured very few vocalists with microphones, and even though I was only sitting four rows back, I was having difficulty hearing it. Also, although the tap dancing in “Step in Time” was absolutely phenomenal, the choreography was a bit too organized to really fit the character of the chimney-sweeps. Other than that, every number was an absolute delight to watch.
“Mary Poppins” runs at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre until Jan. 2, and it is definitely worth seeing, particularly for children and theatre fans. Tickets are available at ww.civictheatre.org or by calling 317-843-3800.