Review: Disney's MARY POPPINS Musical Wows Audiences at the Norris Theatre

By: Sep. 30, 2015
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The beloved MARY POPPINS character has been on a journey with children of all ages since 1934, first as a popular children's book series by P.L. Travers, then as the 1964 Academy Award-winning and most popular Disney film of all time (after Walt Disney managed to convince the author to allow him to adapt her book), and finally as a hit stage musical which is now wowing audiences at the 450-seat Norris Theatre on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. With brand new breath-taking musical numbers and amazing flying and graphic effects, this spectacular production deserves the only word I can think of to describe it: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

I guarantee many of you will be singing that song as you walk out of the theatre under the full enchantment of Mary Poppins and her accomplished ensemble of 24, directed and choreographed by Tony Mansker, a native of Manhattan Beach who is an original cast member of the musical and a veteran of over 1200 performances). With his knowledgeable guidance, each cast member brings incredible magical life to their characters from moment-to-moment starting with the title role wondrously portrayed by Gail Bennett, whose fine-tuned vocals and energetic dancing fuel the enthusiasm on display throughout the production.

Tall and lanky Lucas Coleman plays Chimneysweep Bert to a tee, even tap dancing his way up and over the stage during "Step in Time" thanks to the awe-inspiring ZFX Flying Effects. Listen for several surprise-inducing audience gasps throughout the production thanks to their designs. Bennett and Coleman make a perfect pair as long-time friends Mary and Bert who enjoy every moment they get to entertain each other for as long as her visit with the Banks family lasts.

The lucky Banks children Jane and Michael who get Mary as their Nanny are played to perfection by Aine Lee and Paul Kerker. They are more than just cute, bringing heartfelt emotional range to their every scene. Their many musical numbers with Bennett are more than "Practically Perfect" especially when accompanied by the many fanciful ensemble characters in both "Jolly Holiday" and "Let's Go Fly a Kite." Colorful costuming provided by The Theatre Company in Upland, CA, coordinated by Christina Bayer, enhance their visit to a scent shop where the fright-wig topped proprietor Mrs. Corry (Anne Montavon) leads the trio and her many shop characters through the comical "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." I dare you to try not singing along with them - but wait - you will get your chance during curtain call.

Comedians Melissa Bailey and Matt Alpert are fabulous as the Banks household staff, Mrs. Brill and Robertson Ay with Craig Woolson and Kellie Cundiff portraying Mr. and Mrs. Banks. Each duo make a perfect foil for each other, with Woolson taking us from along with him as his emotions run the gamut from blustery curmudgeon to failed businessman and finally to his redemption into a perfect father for his children. He definitely shows us how Mr. Banks was saved!

Ensemble players of note are Steven Rada as Neleus, the marble park statue that springs to life with incredible ballet movements. Lisa Dyson will pull at your heartstrings as the elderly Bird Woman who requests you "Feed the Birds" by selling bags of bread crumbs for tuppence on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral. Don't miss the birds that fly around her! And Eloise Coopersmith brings in a real touch of pure evil as Miss Andrews, the Nanny replacement soon to be displaced by Mary Poppins during their riotous duet "Brimstone and Treacle." And to all the other ensemble members not mentioned here, please know your many contributions to the production did not go unnoted and I applaud your dedication to bringing the magic onstage for children of all ages to enjoy with real wonderment.

And to Musical Director Jared Scott, thanks so much for bringing the joy of pitch perfect live music to the production with an accomplished 11-piece orchestra.

This practically perfect production of MARY POPPINS plays for just one more weekend with four remaining performances on Friday, Oct 2 at 8pm, Saturday, Oct. 3 at 2pm and8 p.m., and the closing performance on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 2pm, presented by Palos Verdes Performing Arts at the Norris Theatre is located at 27570 Norris Center Drive, Rolling Hills Estates. Ticket prices range from $48-$58, with a $10 discount for children ages 12 and under. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the box office at (310) 544-0403 or go to I encourage you to grab everyone you know and catch this magical show before it flies out of town along with Mary Poppins herself.