BWW Review: MARY POPPINS JR. at Mamiya Theatre
Although there's been a lack of tradewinds on the island of Oahu in the state of Hawaii, a perfect amount of winds---from the east, maybe?---has brought the arrival of Mary Poppins Jr. to the Mamiya Theatre at Chaminade University. Stalwart with a strong cast, vocal abilities, and technical aspects, the sweeping show is practically perfect in every way.
Led by a young yet experienced Kira Stone in the titular role, fresh off of her Newsies success---and concomitant Po'okela award for Leading Female---as well as the local debut of The Wolves, Stone truly shines as the no-nonsense nanny, who pops in to teach two rambunctious children manners and life lessons. She understands every nuance of Mary's character, ranging from her walk, subtle gesticulations, tone of voice, and facial expressions and thus carries the show effortlessly. The only bit of brimstone and treacle (barely) identifiable---unless to a critic's eye---is the fact that in the first eight or so minutes, there is a slight lack of energy from some of the leads, although that becomes elevated once Stone makes her appearance. Once the show and cast finds its pace, with Stone's stamina, the energy level rises, as scenes find themselves in a quick pace, a hybrid to the Broadway version. Collectively, however, the cast, overall, appears to have a jolly holiday.
Furthermore, while the ensemble and supporting cast all remain talented, another true standout is Marley Arecchi as the Bird Woman, who captures the precise poignancy of the lyrics and aura of "Feed the Birds." Resulting from the lighting, mood, acting, and themes of this particular scene, I always find myself touched whenever witnessing it. Her sweet voice is a major contribution to the overall portrayal of this scene, but the fact that she truly understands the scene's themes adds to its overall pathos, leading to not only one of the most memorable moments of the show, but adding to the overall experience of viewing the show as well.
Additionally, the technical aspects of the show are nothing short of fantastic. While the set and prop design are simple and modest, the technicality of the show, which includes a harness to have Stone flying high, a lift that transitions into the Cherry Tree Lane rooftop, and incredible lighting design, which adds to the participatory experience, perfectly add to a sweeping time of watching the show.
As Diamond Head Theatre mounted this production in 2014 (for which I was a backstage crew member as well as Stone's participation in the ensemble), there were natural comparisons being made. However, the fact that the show is comprised of all adolescents ranging from elementary-age to high-school seniors truly does not qualify for comparison to the community professionals that embodied the leads and ensemble of Diamond Head Theatre's production. This show stands on its own as an unwavering delight, which had me chim-chim-cheree-ing on my way out of the theatre.
Overall, Mary Poppins Jr. at the Mamiya Theatre is a sweeping success. Led by Stone and her steadfast stamina along with the rest of the ensemble, the show finds its niche in its acting and vocals. Contributing is also the show's technical aspects, which leads to a fantastic viewing experience. The show opened this past weekend and runs through Sunday, November 11. So, get your tickets, as no spoonful of sugar is needed to help this one go down!