The PCPA production of “Mary Poppins” may be the perfect opportunity to introduce young people to live theater. The only downside is that they might expect all shows to be this good. The musical is truly magical as Mary Poppins flies in over the audience’s heads, and statues, toys, animals, gypsies and chimney sweeps dance in lavish production numbers.
PCPA is one of the first regional theaters to produce the Broadway stage version of P.T. Travers’ classic stories about the perfect nanny, and it’s a perfect holiday show. Most of us know the Disney film, but this musical produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Thomas Schumacher is a bit different, with some new songs and a slightly different — and a bit deeper — story about the Banks family: banker father George, mother Winifred and children Jane and Michael.
Michael Jenkinson, dancer and choreographer, directs the show and fuels it with high-energy, precision dancing. The acting and singing by familiar PCPA ensemble actors is top notch as well. Callum Morris is music director. Besides the flying, there are other special effects, including some aerial, gravity defying dancing.
Karin Hendricks is a quintessential Mary Poppins, with a beautiful voice and a proper demeanor. George Walker, an athletic dancer, is her charming friend, Bert. “Step in Time,” a dynamic tap and acrobatic number by him and his chimney sweep colleagues, is a highlight of the show, as it was in the film.
Andrew Philpot is Mr. Banks, and in this version, stern and cold at first as a result of his own upbringing by a mean nanny, Miss Andrews, whom he calls “the holy terror.” Elizabeth Stuart is Mrs. Banks, not a suffragette as in the movie, but a former actress who finds it difficult to fit into her husband’s social aspirations. Their marriage is part of the story as she sings “Being Mrs. Banks.” As Mr. Banks mellows, so does their relationship.
The children are double cast. Julia Galloway and Devin Orr were excellent as Jane and Michael in the show I saw. Sacha Carlson and Marisa Dinsmoor play them in alternate performances. The kids are in almost every scene and are more mischievous than in the movie. Mary Poppins addresses their misbehavior in “Playing the Game,” a cleverly costumed dance piece that brings their toys to life. Another fun piece is danced by the statue and the animals in the park, summoned by Mary to entertain Jane and Michael when they complain about being bored. Judith A. Ryerson is costume designer.
Kitty Balay is frightening as the holy terror nanny, who returns to the household to dose the children on “Brimstone and Treacle” instead of “A Spoonful of Sugar,” and she is delightful as Mrs. Corry, leader of a band of gypsies in the most colorful number in the show. In brilliant, day-glo costumes and wigs, they explain “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in song and spell it out in dance.
The set is impressive and functional, revolving smoothly from the huge façade of the Banks home to the children’s nursery and the kitchen. A beautiful backdrop of abstract trees changes with the lighting to depict the park. The bank is crisp and efficient. Dana Moran Williams is scenic designer.
This is a grand family show, bright with song, dance and spectacle, but also with heart as it tells the story of a family finding itself. We are fortunate to be among the first communities in the country to see it without going to New York. I can’t imagine that the Broadway show was any better.
Performances are for families with children age 5 and up, except on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7, when children 3 and up may attend.
IF YOU GO
1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Dec. 19, except Nov. 27; and 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Dec. 17, except Friday; through Dec. 22
Marian Theatre, Allan Hancock College, Santa Maria $25 to $37.50
922-8313 or pcpa.org