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  • Charr Crail

    Robert Creighton (Bert) and the Sweeps perform “Step In Time” in “Mary Poppins.”

  • Charr Crail

    From left are Robert Creighton, Noa Solorio, Ben Ainley-Zoll, Kelly McCormick and Joël René in “Mary Poppins.”

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Theater review: A ‘practically perfect’ Music Circus production of ‘Mary Poppins’

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 9, 2014 - 7:32 pm

There’s a fascinating duality in the new “Mary Poppins” at the Music Circus that makes sense as the show wants to pull in children while appealing to adults. So while the mysterious British nanny takes flight in director Glenn Casale’s new production, what’s most interesting is how grounded she is. Mary’s gift is seeing the bigger picture of life and sharing that with the troubled Banks family.

Kelly McCormick as the always-confident, inscrutable Mary anchors the production with Noa Solorio and Ben Ainley-Zoll as Jane and Michael, the Banks children. McCormick’s whimsical smile and soaring vocals fill out the classic character, and the two fine young actors are confident and appealing without ever being precious or cloying.

The trio are well matched from the beginning when the children have run off another in a series of nannies who cannot “control” them, and they help their parents craft an advertisement for “The Perfect Nanny.” Though their humorless father, George Banks (an edgeless David Engel), tears up the note and tosses it into the street, Mary suddenly appears on their doorstep with note intact, ready to take on the thankless job. Mary later asserts to the children that she is “Practically Perfect” and she appears to have things so consistently well in hand there’s little doubt Mary can pull this family together.

The biggest problem facing the Banks household is George’s inability to see how much his family wants to be a part of his life and how much he pushes them away. The songs “Precision and Order,” detailing George’s public life at the bank where he works, and “A Man Has Dreams,” showing his inner frustration, emphasize George’s splintered psyche. His loving wife, Winifred (a fine Shannon Warne), finds herself cast aside as much as the children do.

Mary brings a sense of wonder to the dour Banks household, both in her personal habits and her love of the world. One walk in the park becomes a “Jolly Holiday” with statues coming to life, while another time the experience is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” one of the show’s great terrific production numbers (Dan Mojica created the vibrant choreography) with Joël René as a West Indian Mrs. Corry.

The production also features a truly charming performance from Robert Creighton as Mary’s friend Bert, the chimney sweep. The relationship between Mary and Bert is never exactly clear, but Creighton’s a solid singer and the refrain of the “Chim Chim Cher-ee” melody makes a fine hook in the show. Creighton and the ensemble stop the show with an exuberant “Step In Time” featuring sharp tap dancing for the large cast.

“Mary Poppins” the musical comes to us from some of the great entertainment minds of several generations. Based on the P.L. Travers books, which became the 1964 Disney movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, the current musical play has also passed through the filter of producer Cameron Mackintosh and the new Disney sensibility. The original music for the film was written by Richard and Roger Sherman, and additional music and lyrics came from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Jullian Fellowes created the musical’s book.

The “Mary Poppins” story has a lot going on, and though director Casale’s staging is always crisp, the production feels long and as though it might end a couple times before it actually does.

“Mary Poppins” cannot be denied, though, and this extravagant production will please both children and adults.

Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120.

Read more articles by Marcus Crowder

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