Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Welcome to the wonderful world of Walt Disney with “Mary Poppins” and the opening musical of Uncommon Theatre’s 38th season. This musical opened on Broadway on November 16, 2006, closed on March 3, 2013 and ran for 2619 performances. It is now a full Broadway musical with 44 major awards worldwide. The story of Mary Poppins, the magical nanny who flies into the troubled lives of the Banks children will dazzle and delight audiences of all ages. Bert, the chimney sweep welcomes the audience into the world of “Mary Poppins” with “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” We then follow Mary’s exploits throughout all of London where she charms each person she comes in contact with. The talent of this cast captures the hearts of all members of the audience by propelling them to their feet at curtain call. Director Meg Dussault, music director Linda Barbieri, orchestra director Esther Zabinski and choreographer, Anna Pietal definitely out do themselves with this spectacular musical.
Meg blocks this huge cast wonderfully while Linda taught them all the melodic songs. Esther plays lead keyboards and directs a 7 piece orchestra. Anna’s dances are marvelous especially the tap dance for “Step in Time”, the toy dance for “Playing the Game” and the “Jolly Holiday” dance, too. The amazing set is by Gavin Neary while the gorgeous multitude of costumes are by Cricket Neary and the outstanding lighting is by Andrew Tessler. Leading this large 37 member cast is Shauna Brosky as Mary Poppins. She is captivating as this magical nanny. I last reviewed her in “August Osage County” in Fall River this past March. Shauna’s strong voice is heard in “Practically Perfect”, “Spoonful of Sugar”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialdoscious”, “Feed the Birds” and “Anything Can Happen.” Shauna makes her one liners hit pay dirt and wins many laughs but also delivers a well learned lesson about not holding money in higher regard than it is for caring for your family. Cate Lightbody also shines as Bert. She and Shauna stop the show with their tap dancing prowess in “Step in Time” with the chorus. Cate narrates the show with “Chim Chim Cher-ee” which is later a duet between Bert and Mary at the end of Act 1. Other songs include “Jolly Holiday” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” with jubilant dancing in both of them Shauna and Cate make excellent leading players in this show.
The supporting performers do a topnotch job in their roles, too. Michael Lahiff plays the strict father, George Bank. He displays his strong voice in “Cherry Tree Lane” with his family and in his two solos “A Man Has His Dreams” where he realizes how he’s changed from an idealistic youth and “Good for Nothing” when he’s depressed after being suspended from his job. Michael makes a splendid transition from strict martinet to a more loving, caring father by show’s end. Pretty brunette Erin Fitzgerald shines as Mrs. Banks and displays her beautiful soprano voice in “Being Mrs. Banks” and in “Anything Can Happen” when she decides to defend her husband at the bank. The two Banks children, Jane and Michael are fabulously played by Samantha Grosshandler and Noah Smith. Their acting is impeccable and their strong voices are heard in “Perfect Nanny”, “Practically Perfect”, “Jolly Holiday”, “Spoonful of Sugar”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialdoscious” and “Step in Time.” They are onstage almost the whole show. Bravo!
The villainess of the show is Miss Andrews played by Emily Barnett who rejects Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar to use her “Brimstone and Treacle” with castor oil. She is a tyrant of a nanny and terrorized George as a child as his nanny. Abbi Lightbody plays the kindly Mrs. Corey where the Banks children get gingerbread stars. Grace Ward tugs on your heartstrings as the bird woman who sings “Feed the Birds” as Mary teaches Michael how to be kind to others. Kudos to the whole cast and crew on a magnificent job on this well known Disney musical. So be sure to head to the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro to catch “Mary Poppins” by the Uncommon Theatre Company before Mary flies away for good. Tell them Tony sent you.
MARY POPPINS (17 to 19 November)
Uncommon Theatre, Orpheum Theatre, 1 School Street, Foxboro, MA
1(800)838-3006 or www.uncommontheatre.com