The cast of Mary Poppins. Photo by Rachel Stump
Disney’s Mary Poppins
Book by Julian Fellowes
Music by Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman & George Stiles
Lyrics by Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman & Anthony Drewe
Based on the books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney film
Directed by John Leffert
Review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents copyright © 2017 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved
Despite a last minute actor switch and first act microphone issues, Disney’s Mary Poppins, which opened Thursday night at Centerstage, tidied up and featured several enjoyable moments.
Mary Poppins focuses on the title character, which has come to the house of the Banks family in 1910 London. When Mary arrives, the house is a difficult one to handle. The children, Jane and Michael, are unruly, the mother, Winifred, is easily distracted, and the father, George, is a strict, emotionless disciplinarian. It’s up to Mary to not only manage the kids but bring the family together as well.
In the very first song, “Cherry Tree Lane”, the microphone issues made the song hard to enjoy. There was plenty of popping, static, and mics not coming on as characters entered. These issues continued throughout the entire first act.
In the case of Winifred (Colette Delaney), her mic never came on in the first act, leading to her getting understandably drowned out during her musical numbers. However, to Delaney’s credit, she had enough projection to still be heard in the back rows during her speaking parts.
Despite the mic issues, there were still wonderful moments in act one; especially the songs “Feed the Birds” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. “Feed the Birds”, in particular, was a goose-bump-inducing trade off between Mary Poppins (Melissa Shepherd) and Bird Woman (Glenna Godsey). Shepherd’s near-operatic voice matched well with the world-weary but still-hopeful voice of Godsey.
Shepherd, by the way, was a very good choice for the title role. She took command of the stage when she needed to do so, became the teacher when she had to be, and her chemistry with Bert (Pete Lay) was fantastic.
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, meanwhile, was the pure fun it’s supposed to be. All involved were very carefree and loose as they went through the singing and movements. The children (Ruthie Belza and Finnegan Broyles) were especially adorable in that performance. Heck, they were adorable throughout the entire show.
Also, something very noticeable in the first act was the appearance of John Leffert, Centerstage’s Artistic Director, as George Banks. He was announced as a last minute replacement due to the original George, Josh Gilliam, being out tending to a family emergency. Leffert and the other actors handled this situation very well and, despite a couple of understandable awkward pauses, did not hurt the overall quality of the show.
The quality improved in the second act. Apparently, someone worked on the mic issues during intermission because, other than a couple of static moments, every mic was working fine, even Winifred’s. That meant the audience could hear Colette Delaney’s wonderful, longing rendition of “Being Mrs. Banks”.
Also, “Step in Time”, the other hyper-fun song of the night, was incredibly enjoyable to watch, especially when Bert took lead in the choreography.
Pete Lay’s Bert, by the way, was probably the most developed character of the night. Aside from the aforementioned chemistry with Mary Poppins, Lay was also very expressive, handled every moment on stage with ease, and the fun he was having translated well to the audience.
Then, there was Miss Andrew (Kristy Calman), George’s nanny and antagonist to the Banks children. She was complete opposite of Mary Poppins: stiff, authoritarian, and incredibly serious. It’s exactly what that character required. Her showdown with Mary was an awesome point-counterpoint moment in the show.
Despite the previously mentioned issues, Disney’s Mary Poppins is a fun, all-ages show that everyone should be able to enjoy. Have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious time.
Disney’s Mary Poppins
March 16 – 30, 2017
Tickets are $20 in advance, $22 on Saturday night and Sunday matinees, $2 “at the door” charge
Jewish Community Center
3600 Dutchman’s Lane
Louisville, Kentucky 40205
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.