Review: Orpheus Musical Theatre's Production of MARY POPPINS

Mary Poppins is a solid Orpheus production and I can recommend it to families without hesitation.

By: Nov. 22, 2023

Orpheus Musical Theatre is kicking off a three-show 2023-2024 season with its production of Mary Poppins, The Broadway Muscal. This is Orpheus’ most ambitious production to date, and I was curious to see how they would stage it and create the magic.Review: Orpheus Musical Theatre's Production of MARY POPPINS

For those who may not know, Mary Poppins is based on a series of stories by P.L. Travers, and was made famous through the Academy-award winning 1964 Disney film, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Set in London in 1910, Mary Poppins (Sheena Turcotte) is hired as a nanny for the Banks’ children, Michael (John Iziomon) and Jane (Jet Kearns). Mary, with help of her friend, Bert (Brendan Finnerty), and some magic, teaches the importance of family and brings the Banks household closer together.

This season, Orpheus seems to have made even more improvements to their stage design, with multiple projection screens serving as both background enhancers and stage dividers (set design by Tony Walker). This worked exceptionally well, as it allowed set transitions to occur mostly behind the scenes and added depth to the stage with the scenic art projections (by Tony Walker and Maggie Walters). Set pieces were changed in a variety of ways, such as being physically moved, dropped from the rafters, or hidden behind the divider. It seems like Orpheus is paying more attention to how they can manipulate set pieces without being overly distracting to the audience, and it is working extremely well.

Review: Orpheus Musical Theatre's Production of MARY POPPINS Mary Poppins’ “magic” was brilliantly done – I laughed out loud when she pulled a huge potted tropical plant out of her carpet bag. Of course, Mary comes and goes by way of air travel, and this was created beautifully – treating the audience to the iconic Mary Poppins imagery. Kite flying scenes are a little trickier to pull off when you are confined to the theatre space, but they were still admirably done. The costumes were fantastic (designed by Lilian Gibson), with the exception of one particular wig – more on that later.

This Mary Poppins is not a carbon copy of the film, and it helps to know that going in to taper expectations and avoid disappointment. You will recognize some classic songs from the movie, like “Chim Chim Cher-ee”, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, and the exceptionally well-done “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Some of the other songs are on the dull side and the first half started to drag because of it, but there are enough catchy tunes to offset the forgettable ones.

Performances were good all around, but Turcotte really shone as the star of the show with her portrayal of Mary Poppins. She nailed the character’s stern but loving nature, as well as the slightly egotistical element of her character that can get overlooked. Her considerable talent – and the fact that she is a professional actor – were evident in her mannerisms and movements, as well as in her vocal capacity.

Iziomon and Kearns were adorable as the Banks’ children. They used a perfect blend of sweetness, with a hint of naughtiness. Finnerty’s Bert was channelling Dick Van Dyke; he was sometimes a little difficult to understand when singing, but he completely embodied the role and played up his emotional connection to Mary.Review: Orpheus Musical Theatre's Production of MARY POPPINS

I enjoyed TL Rader’s over the top performance as Mrs. Corry; she brought extra energy to the stage in every scene she was in. Langdon and Schwartz had good chemistry together, but it seemed like Schwartz was having some trouble moving around in her costume, particularly during the first act. Julie Heath was splendid as the flustered, overworked Mrs. Brill, and Carmella Gehrels made a formidable Miss Andrew. The wig selected for the latter’s character was a bit unfortunate; perhaps it is just because Halloween is not too far behind us, but I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to the Bride of Frankenstein. Nevertheless, Gehrels was able to demonstrate her significant vocal prowess in “Brimstone and Treacle”.

While not my favourite, Mary Poppins is a solid Orpheus production. Near the end, the audience was whole-heartedly clapping along to the songs, and I can recommend this show to families without hesitation. Children will undoubtedly appreciate the bits of magic and audience interaction.

Mary Poppins is in performances at Meridian Theatres @ Centrepointe now through November 26th, with ticket prices ranging from $29 to $50 (before fees). Click here for more information or to purchase tickets. If you prefer, you still have time to purchase a subscription to all three shows in Orpheus’ 2023-2024 season at a discounted price - click here for subscription information.