BWW Reviews: MARY POPPINS at Hale Centre Theatre West Valley Has a Spoonful of Surprises
MARY POPPINS at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley offers up a spoonful of visual surprises that will delight audiences of all ages.
Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's MARY POPPINS (music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, George Stiles, and Anthony Drewe; book by Julian Fellowes) is based on both the Walt Disney film and the original stories by P.L. Travers. Because of this, the plot takes a number of detours that will be unexpected for those only familiar with the motion picture. At its heart, MARY POPPINS is a story about family. When Jane and Michael Banks are in need of a new nanny, the magical Mary Poppins arrives to teach them and their parents that what they really need is so much more.
With this production, Hale Centre Theatre approaches the zenith of what is possible in technical amateur theatre. What its production team has been able to accomplish is astounding.
The set by Kacey Udy once again stretches the boundaries of the theatre's center stage with a design that fills it with plenty for the audience to see and the actors to interact with while still allowing for fluid transitions from scene to scene.
The imaginative look of the show, along with a number of exciting illusions, are a joint effort by Udy along with technical engineering manager Rob Kinmont, costume designer Louise Pascoe, hair and makeup designer Trisha Ison, properties designer Michelle Jensen, sound designer Dan Morgan, and lighting designer Adam Flitton.
The choreography by Jenny Barlow is among the best ever seen at Hale Centre Theatre and features dancers who are technically very accomplished.
In the production number "Step in Time," all these elements swirl together with reckless, joyful abandon to create a sequence that would be hard to top. The exhilarating dancing and magical surprises are highlighted in all the best ways by the spectacular, constantly shifting lighting.
A spoonful of sugar, like these technical elements, happily helps the medicine go down. In this case, the medicine is a stiff, presentational performance style across the board that seems to have been encouraged, or at least not discouraged, by the director. Because the characters' relationships are not grounded in emotional honesty, we lose much of what is touching about the piece.
Leading lady Brittany Sanders (double cast with Kimberly Olson Bunker) is a practically perfect example of this, as her Mary Poppins is all edges and no curves. Still, her singing and accent are both spot-on, and her portrayal of the famous nanny has much to applaud.
As Bert, David Smith (double cast with Geoffrey Reynolds) fills the iconic role with an ease and naturalness that is refreshing.
Also deserving of praise are the lovely second act solo of Dianna Graham as Mrs. Winifred Banks (double cast with Michelle Blake), the incredible dance prowess of Taylor Stanger as Neleus (double cast with Matt Davies), the scene-stealing dourness of Jocelyn Hansen as Mrs. Brill (double cast with Jennifer Nix Royall), and the wonderful casting of Maggie Scott as Jane (double cast with Abigail Edwards).
With a spoonful of eye-candy sugar, even cod liver oil can taste like strawberry ice. And this production will more than satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth.
MARY POPPINS plays through August 9, 2014. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.halecentretheatre.org.
Photo Credit: L-R Brittany Sanders (Mary Poppins) and Geoffrey Reynolds (Bert)