The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Mary Poppins
Organization Placer Community Theater
Date(s) of show October 10-24, 2015
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb

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 comic touch.

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 colorful!”

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, too.                                    

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