Sara King and Jordan Cyphert in Mary Poppins.
Photo-Derby Dinner Playhouse
Musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film
Music by Richard and Robert Sherman
Additional Music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
One of the many problems of bringing a beloved movie to the stage is finding the ability to re-create the Hollywood magic. Now, try re-creating the Magic of Disney on the same stage. Now, think of the same beloved movie that stars one of the most talented voices of the past 60 years alongside one of the most brilliant masters of comedic timing.
As a stage producer or director, do you shy away from those obstacles or do you embrace them and tell yourself “hey, we can do this!!”
I am pleased to report that Associate Producer Lee Buckholz listened to his inner self and said “A Man Has Dreams” and made Derby Dinner Playhouse’s Mary Poppins a fun reality.
When you walk into the theater all around you are visions of clouds and kites in homage to “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”. Above the stage, in the halo formed by the stage lights are the clouds that you would be flying a kite into. Simple.
The lights rise and there stands the loveable chimney sweep Bert (Jordan Cyphert) setting up the events of the story with a tip of the hat to the running melodic theme of “Chim Chim Cher-ee” foretelling of the story of The Banks family on Cherry Tree Lane.
We are introduced to stern and regimented banker George Banks (Tyler Bliss), suffragette wife Winifred (Jillian Prefach), daughter Jane (Caroline Seigrist) and son Michael (Braeden Criss). As we know, the Banks children are, shall we say, lively and a bit precocious. Nannies are not in the employ of the Banks family for long because of that. In fact when we open the door to the Banks house we see the exit of Katie Nana (Elizabeth Loos). Jane and Michael have an idea of what kind of nanny they would like to have and let their busy parents know in the lovely “The Perfect Nanny”. I hope to hear Ms. Seigrist again soon, a clear and lovely tone that made me want to hear more from her.
Enter Mary Poppins (Sara King). Suffice it to say, it is a grand entrance.
As the children get to know their new nanny we are of course introduced to the timeless songs, “Practically Perfect” and “Spoonful of Sugar”, both of which show off Ms. King’s vocal abilities to good effect. Cool stage tricks happen here too ladies and gentlemen.
An outing the next day takes the children on a “Jolly Holiday” with Bert and Mary and some fantastic scene work and imagery is created in this scene.
Of course, this is a family that is supposed to be kept on a tight leash and when the children and Mary arrive back home they are reminded of such to which the foretelling “Winds Do Change” casts a bit of a pall over the fun that was had but also allows the audience to see how each member of the Banks family is not completely happy despite putting on brave faces.
Many of these feelings come to a head after a trip to the bank to visit George when the children see how hard their father works but are summarily brushed away only for George to be reminded by potential client Northbrook (Adam Raque) that there should always be time made for family and gives each child a sixpence.
One of the most moving scenes of Mary Poppins, the movie, for me, has always been “Feed the Birds”. It is presented here with a minimal prop of statuary with steps where the bird woman (Ms. Loos) sits and sells her wares and calls out to the passersby “Tuppence A Bag”. Michael, as many children his age, wants to spend the shiny coin in his pocket, but Mary purchases a bag for him while noticing Jane visibly conflicted as to helping the old woman or doing what her father would do by holding on to her money. Ms. King and Ms. Loos played off of each other beautifully.
In an attempt to cheer Mr. Banks up Mary and children visit Ms. Fannie’s confectionary store and it is there that we learn of George’s stern upbringing but that he was also just as precocious as his children. Fannie spoke of what made George happy, flying kites and gingerbread. This scene is decidedly different from the movie to when we are introduced to one of the most fantastic words in our lexicon now “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. I don’t know if it was written differently for the staging, or director’s choice, but the song seemed slower than I remember it, but that’s just picking a nit for me. I will say that this is certainly one of the more energized scenes of the show and the ensemble did a great job, although some of the choreography seemed a little off. But, part of that could have been first night jitters.
One of the most splendid scenes that one can recall from the movie is the rooftop scene of “Step in Time”, and this talented group made it just as thrilling and fun use of stage effects and imagination come into play. As is problematic with watching theater in the round sometimes the audience does not get to see what happened on the other side of the stage. Such was the case the evening of my attendance where there was uproar of laughter from one side of the theater but, alas, I didn’t get to see what was funny. Maybe that is all part of the fun?
George really shows just how much family and love means to him, and yes, it plays off a bit hokey at times, but there is some deep, emotional sweetness to George coming to that revelation, which was touched upon in Act I. “A Man Has Dreams” and “Give Us the Word” gave Tyler Bliss a chance to show off his vocal talents and he was fabulous.
So we have a happy family once more and it is time for Mary to go as the winds have changed once again.
In closing, an absolutely splendid cast. I enjoyed the consistency of happiness and yearning that could be found in Jordan Cyphert’s Bert (as well as his dancing). Impressed by the actresses and actors that took on multiple roles. There were times that one could see and hear the embodiment of Mary Poppins in Sara King.
Yes, go to Derby Dinner Playhouse and see this family friendly musical. You may be in for a bit of a surprise.
So spit, spot, off you go!!
July 2 – August 16, 2014
Derby Dinner Playhouse
525 Marriot Drive
Clarksville, IN 47129