Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 37
A spoonful of magic makes PCPA Theaterfest's 'Mary Poppins' a must-see show this holiday season
BY JOE PAYNE
Tackling a live production of a Disney classic is not something to which PCPA Theaterfest is a stranger; the premier theater company staged a memorable production of Beauty and the Beast as part of its 2005-2006 season. And now the even-more-iconic Mary Poppins is gracing the stage of the newly renovated Marian Theater as the opening performance of PCPA’s 2013-2014 season.
To interpret a classic such as Mary Poppins, much care is required. A childhood favorite for many generations, the beloved 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke sets the standard—a standard PCPA has proved it’s more than able to meet. The retooling of the story to fit the stage provides a refreshing update to the two-hour-plus screenplay.
The story begins with a wonderful exposition, Cherry Tree Lane, through which we meet the Banks family. “The Sovereign” of the home, George Banks (Andrew Philpot), is a man who demands precision and order from himself, his staff, and his family. His wife, Winnifred (Elizabeth Stuart), and his rambunctious and mischievous children, Jane (played alternately by Marisa Dinsmoor and Julia Galloway) and Michael (Sacha Carlson and Devin Orr), don’t exactly fit Banks’ mold for the perfect family, which should be as precise and proper as he is at his bank job.
When the troubled family loses another nanny to the Banks children’s less-than-perfect behavior, we learn the vastly different opinions each family member has of what makes the perfect caretaker. Though George Banks approves of the strict discipline his childhood nanny required, his children would rather someone who is pretty and rosy-cheeked and possesses a pocket full of sweets and an encyclopedic knowledge of games. The kids PCPA cast as Jane and Michael showcase the company’s knack for picking the perfect actors for the part, no matter what the age.
Before Banks can even leave for work, our title character makes her entrance. Karin Hendricks completely embodies the no-nonsense yet impeccably pleasant Mary Poppins, even down to the way she flies onto the set with umbrella in hand (yes, Mary does fly). Before long Poppins begins her tenure with the Banks family, even though the kids have doubts. The song “Practically Perfect” sets up the magical character of Poppins and lets us know that the story really hinges upon the children and their journey of discovery about their father.
Filling the shoes of Julie Andrews is a daunting task, but Hendricks is at ease with the singing, dancing, flying, and sharpened wit of the character. Hendricks finds perfect support from George Walker in his depiction of the lucky, polymathic chimney sweep Bert. This duo forms the lynchpin of the play; completely solidifying the magical realism the story is all about. Everything in addition to them is icing on the cake, and Walker’s wirework during “Step in Time” is nothing short of breathtaking.
The rest of PCPA’s resident actors fill out the play fantastically. Erik Stein brings his comedic character development to the fore with the few parts he is afforded. Peter S. Hadres dons many hats, including that of the Bank Chairman and the Park Keeper, whose personalities he delivers with delight. Kitty Balay lends her incredible skill and voice to several characters, most notably George Banks’ childhood nanny, Miss Andrew, remembered as the “holy terror” by her former ward. The “nanny duel” between Andrew and Poppins is technically complex, visually dazzling, and just too much fun.
Housed in the newly renovated Marian Theatre, the PCPA production team really gets a chance to flex its muscles. The lighting lends to the fantastical atmosphere already well established by the amazingly mammoth and versatile set. Pair that with the beautiful music complete with infectiously catchy melodies sung by the skilled lead and ensemble actors, and audience members have entered a truly magical space—where kites, characters, and the imagination take flight.
Arts Editor Joe Payne is going to fly a kite. Contact him at email@example.com.
STEP IN TIME! PCPA Theaterfest's production of 'Mary Poppins' features song, dance, and dazzling special effects that bring the Disney classic to life.
VIDEO BY PCPA VIA YOUTUBE.COM