BWW Review: The Artistry Soars with Fantastic MARY POPPINS
The incomparable "Mary Poppins" returns to Bloomington's The Artistry Theater on the winds of her iconic character's umbrella. Penned as a collection of eight stories beginning in the 1934, Walt Disney wrangled the rights from author P.L. Travers for their 1964 film. One of the studios crowning glories in its film history, the movie garnered eight academy awards. The Broadway adaptation, on view at Artistry, differs from the film featuring music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman from a book created by Julian Fellows. Director Joel Sass and Music Director Anita Ruth along with Choreographer Joe Chavala produced a Broadway worthy musical at the Bloomington Arts Center, to which the lyrics from the show will aptly: "Stretch your mind into the fantastic, dreams are made of strong elastic."
The two leads, Becca Hart as Mary Poppins and C. Ryan Shipley as Bert rekindle these iconic personalities with superb success. Their voices clear and luminous carry the award winning score with aplomb while audience members may mouth the words in their seats. "A Spoonful of Sugar" or Bert's Chim Chim Ceree ring brightly through the auditorium. The sparkling duo carry the performance along with two alternating child actors who play the Banks' children, Mary and John, who were exceptionally professional and charming.
This alternating children's cast includes either Kate Regan or Mabel Weismann and Josh Bagley trading with Liam Beck O' Sullivan. On the Thursday night performance, Weismann and O'Sullivan wowed the audience with their stage versatility. Combined with Hart and Shipley, the four actors create a formidable talent to center the large ensemble cast, including Andrea Wallenberg playing Mrs. Banks and Charlie Clark's George Banks with stellar results.
Artistry' and Chavala's choreography dances with a delightful energy and excellence, in everything from "A Jolly Holliday with Mary," 'Supercalifragilisticexpalidocious," and a stunning Chim Chim Cheree." The complimentary "Step in Time" really creates a stellar showpiece as in the movie, also with applause to the Costume and Scenic Designer Bob Crowley, when the characters sit on London's rooftops where they realize their problems seem small when compared from this higher perspective. The cadre of chimney sweeps cavort through cartwheels and tap dances--show stopping and also showcases the 14 piece orchestra under Anita Ruth's direction.
Young and the less than young will appreciate Artistry's "Mary Poppins'"--One of the forerunners in children's magical story series, the movie and film place the importance on children and their special feelings--how critical they are in today's world and perhaps today's society pushes to the side and needs to hear. To some, Mary Poppins was hardly saccharine, she was a counterpoint to the terror of Miss Andrew's (a marvelous Brandon J. Jackson) brimstone and terror. A long time ago, a wise professor I studied under mentioned humans can learn as much from love and light as suffering and darkness. Perhaps Mary Poppins reminds audiences this brand of character building works as does sugar, which can "turn bread and water into tea and cakes."
The musical also reminds audiences that sometimes adults lose their way in a helter skelter demanding work world, often to the detriment of children. As one of the only developed and industrialized countries in the world without a dedicated family leave plan for parents, where does this country place its value and priorities?
As this magical musical ends, dreams resurface and the cast sings "you can choose the super or the superfluous," What does this timeless story remind audiences to do? Marvel at the magic in the world, often magic of one's own making, for the children in their lives, or to recast their own miracles, where individuals soar by choosing the super over the superficial. In case anyone needs a spoonful of hope and optimism, Artistry's "Mary Poppins." reflects on the super in theater. See the fantastic production before the show closes November 2.
The Artistry at the Bloomington Center for the Arts presents Disney and Cameron Macintoshes "Mary Poppins" through November 4. For information about their theatrical season, or tickets to a performance, please visit: artistrymn.org.