Placer Community Theater has brought
the beloved Mary Poppins to the stage of Auburn’s State Theatre.
Well, maybe it’s not quite the Mary Poppins you’re thinking of.
This is a new show, originally produced in 2004 by Cameron Mackintosh (Les
Misérables and Phantom of the Opera) and the Disney
organization. The plot is roughly the same as the movie, but there are
new songs (plus most of the original songs), a few different characters,
and many other changes. So when you see the show, be prepared for
something different — and still delightful.
The title role is played by Dakota
Lynch, and she brings a beautiful voice that is so important to the
success of the show. Indeed, there were many good voices, and I was
particularly impressed by the singing of Lorraine Castberg as Winifred
Banks and Beth Gillogly, who stole the show when she appeared in her
dual roles, first as the Bird Woman and later as Miss Andrew (the evil
nanny). And speaking of stealing the show, the children — Jane and
Michael Banks, played by Maddy Wood and Fiona Gillogly — sparkled in
their acting and singing. The children also did well, as did the whole
cast, in maintaining their British accents throughout the show.
With his own good British accent and
believable acting, Stephen Wellman (as George Banks) deserves a tip of
the bowler. I also really enjoyed the work of the statues and chimney
sweeps in their big musical numbers.
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was, of course, one of these, with
cute choreography that featured incredibly complex hand gestures
performed by the whole cast. From the applause when it ended, it was
clear that it was an audience favorite. The same could be said of “Step
in Time,” which surprised us all with even more elaborate choreography
that featured tap dancing.
Bert, played by Jonathan Sorensen,
was the heart of the show, with good singing, acting and dancing. He
projected the positive spirit that linked all the plot twists together
and made his character so appealing. (I actually wrote “endearing” in
my notes.) That was refreshing because this version of the Mary Poppins
story has some darker elements — a bit more harshness and melodrama than
the movie. For example, the scene where the toys come to life and
approach the sleeping Jane and Michael might frighten the youngest
children in the audience. Mary Poppins herself is not consistently
cheery, and Miss Andrew is positively frightful.
These moments, though, are rare.
And there is plenty of delightful humor. A good bit of this is provided
by the duo of Mrs. Brill, played by Lori Wainio, and her sidekick, the
buffoon household servant, Robertson Ay, played by Sallee Kallenbach.
As I watched Mrs. Brill, I was impressed at how completely she inhabited
her character, and I kept thinking how much she reminded me, with her
accent, of Mrs. Patmore in Downton Abbey. And the usually mute
Robertson Ay reminded me of Stan Laurel (of Laurel & Hardy) — a nice
There are many scene changes in this
story, and the audience’s imagination was helped greatly by clever
projections on the screen at the back of the stage and by the
well-designed sets. I just wish that they had figured out how to change
the sets in such a way that a stagehand wouldn’t be clearly visible
working behind singing actors.
I think we in the audience
particularly enjoyed the “special effects,” such as when the whole cast
came out with kites attached to flexible 3-foot sticks to sing “Let’s Go
Fly a Kite.” There were also some effects were pretty subtle, but very
clever, such as when Mr. Banks tore up the children’s advertisement for
a nanny, tossed the pieces into the small fireplace, and then the torn
scraps rose up the chimney. It was wonderfully subtle, and I doubt many
in the audience even noticed it.
I have to add that the costumes were
a highlight of the show: varied and vivid, with many costume changes.
There were several moments when I found myself thinking, “This is all so
After what seemed like the final
bows, the full cast gave us a reprise of many of the songs of the show —
including the “hand jive” (you youngsters can look it up in Wikipedia)
of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Ending the show with this
medley was a nice effect that gave cast and audience a jolt of
enthusiasm as the lights went up and everyone headed for greetings in
the lobby. And indeed the lobby was crammed with people engaged in
animated conversation — evidence, along with the enthusiastic applause,
that the audience enjoyed this fresh take on Mary Poppins, with
all the new music and innovative elements. And I bet you’ll enjoy it,