BWW Review: Inspire Creative's MARY POPPINS Comes Together in a Delightful Way
Mary Poppins is a very technologically intensive show, and like a lot of such works, it's easy to forget that there is more to it than the theatrical bells and whistles. So it's nice to see a production like the one currently playing at the PACE Center which, if it's occasionally a letdown on the visual front (the façade of the Banks family house lacks some of the bourgeois charm of the film, and the projected backdrops are a mixed bag), fully delivers on the heart of the story.
The Disney film-and the Cameron Mackintosh production based upon it-is a story of personal and family growth. Mary Poppins (Nancy Evans Begley, displaying pithy wit and stunning high notes aplenty) ostensibly arrives in response to the prayers of little Jane (Regan Fenske) and Michael (Levi Hirsch) for an ideal nanny, but it is really for the entire family that she comes. Through her influence, each member gains what is missing in their lives: father (Brandon Bill) learns warmth, mother (Alison Vance) strength, and the children selflessness. All the colorful adventures and production numbers are just, as the song says, the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.
Still, it is a delicious spoonful, with a great deal of energy and humor. Bill gives George Banks a solid bluster concealing a reflective, hurting soul, and Fenske and Hirsch are suitably charming and precocious. The Inspire Creative ensemble sings beautifully, especially on the classic Sherman brothers songs that are the material's main draw. The additional music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, by contrast, is one of the piece's weak points, but Begley and Amy Osatinski wring out a high point in a delicious battle-of-the-sopranos between Mary Poppins and odious old-school nanny Miss Andrew.
Cheerful and charming, MARY POPPINS plays now through January 31st at the PACE Center, Fridays through Sundays at 7:30, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm, and a special "sensory friendly" performance on Thursday January 28th at 7:30. For tickets and information, contact the box office at 303-805-6800 or visit parkerarts.org.
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From This Author Christi Esterle