Monday, November 24, 2014

"Mary Poppins" – Practically perfect in every way

Cayman Ilika and Greg McCormick Allen in Mary Poppins (Mark Kitaoka)

Mary Poppins
Issaquah: to January 4, 2015
Everett: January 9-February 8, 2015

Anticipation for Village Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins ran high, especially after casting was announced of Cayman Ilika as Mary Poppins and Greg McCormick Allen as Bert. Both have every attribute you would want for those roles, and each is as professional a pro can be in delivering the goods! And so it is no surprise at all that they do in spades!

Then you have some lovely casting choices like real-life-marrieds Christine Marie Brown and Andrew McGinn as George and Winifred Banks, the keep-your-eye-on youngster Mae Corley as young Jane Banks, other real-life-marrieds Connie Corrick (as the Bird Woman) and Hugh Hastings (as the Admiral) and the sure-to-be-comic-duo of Laura Kenny and Erik Gratton as the housekeeper Mrs. Brill and the butler Robertson Ay. Add the furious, chew the stage, anti-Poppins aria of Mary Jo DuGaw (as Miss Andrews) and a passel of dancers and you’ve brewed up a terrific, family fun show sure to please everyone!
 
This undertaking was so large it apparently took two directors (Steve Tomkins and Kathryn Van Meter) and two music directors (Tim Symons and Bruce Monroe)! The set challenges are pretty massive, with set changes every few moments from inside and outside the Banks house to the park to a bank and various adventures that Mary Poppins takes the children to see. Scott Fyfe creates a satisfying array of locations, and even manages some magic tricks with a kitchen that must fall apart and reconstruct itself.

And Mary Poppins must fly, of course, which Ilika makes seem spit-spot, easy as pie, with her perfectly straight carriage and bemused expression. Since Broadway, Bert must also walk on walls and on a ceiling. And Allen does so. (The effort for Village, though, strains so hard at their resources that it’s almost a shame they have to attempt it. In fact, if there were lower tech, more wink-at-theater ways to accomplish some of the tricks, the show would have lost none of the fun, but some of the strain.)

The technical support from lighting (Tom Sturge), sound (Brent Warwick) and delightful costuming (Cynthia Savage) are at their usual peak. Choreography from Kathryn van Meter is adorable and energetic. The one piece that doesn’t gel is the too frantic and piecemeal “Step in Time” where less could have been much more if fewer tappers had been given a more cohesive moment to shine.

Those who might expect the movie version need to understand that this script has been added to and changed a bit by book writer Julian Fellowes, and has a bit more of a lesson on how to be parents than the movie. Mary’s influence is less direct, though she’s still there to clean up messes. George Banks has a better arc, from a disconnected, always at work, father and husband, to remembering that he had dreams as a child and finally embracing that. McGinn has a delicious moment of silliness with which to express that.

Even though Mary Poppins is not specifically a holiday show, it feels like it is. You can either celebrate the season, or just enjoy the non-holiday programming, whichever is your spoonful of sugar. For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.