BWW Reviews: MARY POPPINS Not Quite So Magical at Village

BWW Reviews: MARY POPPINS Not Quite So Magical at Village
Cayman Ilika and Greg McCormick Allen in
Mary Poppins at Village Theatre
Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

It felt like they were trying to shove a ten-pound show into an 8-pound bag. Sometimes a show is just too big even for Village's usually ample stage. Such was the case with "Mary Poppins" over at Village Theatre. Yes, the talent was all there to support it but the technical wizardry felt at its worst clunky and at its best under rehearsed which tended to sap the magic from an otherwise magical show.

It's the same "Mary Poppins" you love from the Disney movie but with new story points added from the other P.L. Travers books and updated and additional songs. But we still deal with the residents of number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, George and Winifred Banks (Andrew McGinn and Christine Marie Brown) and their precocious children Jane and Michael (Mae Corley and Jaryn Lasentia) who have driven off another nanny with their misbehaving. In flies Mary Poppins (Cayman Ilika) who magically takes the children on outings and teaches them lessons on proper behavior along with her friend Bert (Greg McCormick Allen) who works as a bit of Jack of all trades. But is she really here to teach the children or the buttoned down Mr. Banks?

Now I have to mention that when I saw the national tour of this at the Paramount a few years back it was a magical experience. Mary Poppins flies out over the audience, Bert dances up walls and statues come to life. Sure there were wires but you overlook such things especially in a bigger house. And all those elements were here at Village but with far less Disney magic and polish. She flies but there's a bit of a lurch to it. He dances on the ceiling but only kind of as the cable operators didn't give him enough slack to straighten his legs. And much of the other magic as well just felt under rehearsed as I was constantly seeing stage hands doing their helpful tasks but not so invisibly. Plus it seemed there were gremlins in the theater as bits and bobs kept breaking or falling off of set pieces and costumes all night long. Yes, with another week or so of rehearsals all of these technical issues will surely be worked out and some of the "magic" will settle in but I don't think it could ever get to the point of that touring experience.

The cast, however, are all magical. Corey and Lasentia never venture into that awkward realm of annoying child actors. In fact Lasentia managed a few comedic one-liners with the timing of a seasoned pro. McGinn and Brown could not have been more delightful as the beleaguered parents and really added a ton of wonderful characterizations to the roles. And I must mention a few ensemble standouts. Connie Corrick brings the requisite sweetness to the old bird woman. Nicole Beerman is delightfully sassy as the wordsmith Mrs. Corry. Mary Jo DuGaw is gorgeously evil as the anti-Mary Poppins, Miss Andrew. And Nikolas Hagen is absolutely adorable as the living statue Neleus.

But it's Ilika and Allen who have to carry the show and they do with grace and aplomb. Ilika feels like she could have stepped right off the pages of Travers' books with her spit spot attitude and her voice utterly shines in the role. And Allen, whom I've always felt to be a consummate song and dance man, looks to be the love child of Dick Van Dyke and Fred Astaire with his outrageous exuberance and fancy footwork.

If only the tech magic were up to those standards then the show would be as stunning as the original. And as I said, it will probably get closer but it's still too small of a house to attempt. So with my three letter rating system I give Village Theatre's "Mary Poppins" a MEH+ for now with a solid YAY in a week or two. I just hope they don't try "Wicked" next.

"Mary Poppins" performs at Village Theatre's Issaquah location through January 4th and then moves over to their Everett location running January 9th through February 8th. For tickets or information contact the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202 or the Everett box office at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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