I love ‘Mary Poppins,’ closing Sunday at Carpenter Theater

I’m in love with Mary! “Mary Poppins” that is! Forgive me a moment why I burst into song!

“Oh, it’s a jolly holiday
With Mary
Mary makes your ‘eart so light
When the day is gray
And ordinary
Mary makes the sun shine bright!

“Oh ‘appiness is bloomin’
All around ‘er
The daffoldils are smilin’
At the dove
When Mary ‘olds your ‘and
You feel so grand
Your ‘eart starts beatin’
Like a big brass band
Oh, it’s a jolly holiday with Mary
No wonder that it’s Mary that we love!”

As you can tell, I just saw the preview of “Mary Poppins” at Musical Theater West and my heart is all atwitter with everything Mary. I really loved the show, the music, the dancing, the message.

Katharine-Kelly-McDonough-new

If you read an earlier post, you know how much the role means to actress Katharine McDonough, who plays Mary Poppins. To repeat a part of the interview:

“As a young girl Katharine McDonough was obsessed with Mary Poppins. She would watch the 1964 film about the magical nanny who visits a dysfunctional London family over and over again.

At times she even wondered if Mary Poppins was an angel since she descended from the clouds.

“I just loved that world…it has a very special place in my heart,” she said.

Now the West Los Angeles resident is about to float into that world with her own umbrella as she takes on the lead role in “Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins.

“It’s a dream for me to step into her shoes and pick up the umbrella and sing all these iconic songs. It’s been very special for me so far,” said McDonough, just as rehearsals were underway for Musical Theatre West’s production of the classic story.

It runs at the Carpenter Center July 8-23 with a cast of 27, a live orchestra in the pit and special effects that will have McDonough flying high above the stage, just like her childhood hero.

After seeing the production, I have to say McDonough is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! Or to put in Mary’s lyrical world:

“Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay
Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay
So when the cat has got your tongue
There’s no need for dismay
Just summon up this word
And then you’ve got a lot to say
But better use it carefully
Or it may change your life
One night I said it to me girl
And now me girl’s my wife!”

I think Katharine is a wonderful Mary, she captures the essence of this famous nanny and projects it with a powerful voice and charming disposition. I thought she was spot on in her characterization, which is colored by my everlasting affection for Julie Andrew’s role in the movie.

But Kate stepped up and exceeded my high expectations!  I loved her timing, her acting and her reticence. Mary didn’t overplay her part, always keeping a stiff upper lip that the British are so proud of — she’s calm, but caring.

The perfect nanny for the Jane and Michael, the children of the wealthy and uptight Banks family. The adorable pair have seen more than their fair share of nannies, so Mary Poppins is indeed a fresh breeze that blows into their window on Cherry Lane in London.

Mary and her many, many friends are rays of sunshine that illuminate the children’s lives. Giving them an upbeat attitude and changing forever their perception of everyday living.

I don’t always expect the best from child performers, they simply don’t have the experience to smooth over unexpected rough patches. But I’m happy to report that Olivia Knox, who plays Jane, and Travis Burnett-Doering, who younger brother Michael, do a bang up job!

Their voices were pitch perfect, and they always hit their cues right on time. Something that much older performers don’t always do, especially during a preview night.

Pieranunzi-Robert

Now I must admit that I fancy myself to be a bit of the Cockney chimney sweep Bert. Played to perfection by Dick Van Dyke,  Bert made a memorable impression in my young life when the film came out.

While Bobby Pieranunzi  didn’t top Van Dyke’s performance, he certainly matched it song by song. Our very own Bert gives us a wink and nod that reminded you of a favorite uncle, who always sided with you behind your parents’ back! More song!

Chim chiminey
Chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-ee!
When you’re with a sweep
You’re in glad company

No where is there
A more ‘appier crew
Than them wot sings
“Chim chim cher-ee
Chim cher-oo!”
On the chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-ee
Chim cher-oo!

And a happy crew, the Musical Theater West cast seems to be!

MartinKildare

For Seal Beach resident Martin Kildare, who plays the part of stuffy George Banks, it means a much easier commute than the bright lights of Broadway, where he costarred as the ominous Scar in “Lion King.”

He enjoys performing in his own backyard. Kildare, who lives in College Park West, also starred in Musical Theatre West’s production of Lerner and Loewe’s Tony Award-winning musical “My Fair Lady” in 2015 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center.

A Los Alamitos High School graduate, Kildare and his wife have two children, who attend McGaugh Elementary.

Jerry-Amanda-Leigh

But back to Mary Poppins! Amanda Leigh Jerry plays the put-upon wife, Winifred. No suffragette movement in this play by Cameron Mackintosh, but Winifred comes off as a caring women worried about her spoiled children and workaholic husband.

Ferrer-Cynthia

And I’d like to tip my bowler hat to Cynthia Ferrer, who does an admirable job as Mrs. Brill, the cook.

Now least my critics complain that I like everything, let me say a word about the scenery. I thought the two-story interior was inspired, even though I wasn’t that impressed with the painting of the flats.

But I liked the children’s bedroom with the sloped ceilings in the attic and the ironwork atop the London townhouse. Bert does some of his best work on top of England’s capital.

I loved the chimney sweeps dance, enjoying the choreography of Daniel Pelzig very much.

Based on the Disney movie, this “Mary Poppins” offers all the Sherman Brothers songs that we love, as well as some new additions by the Olivier winning team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Who doesn’t like “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” Yes, I know, you’d like to tell ME to go fly a kite, but please give me a few more minutes of your time. Thank you!

I also enjoyed the orchestra playing the pit right beneath me. There’s always something special about live music. So thumbs up to Musical Director Ryan O’Connell and his talented musicians.

We also applaud the fine ensemble cast assembled for this massive production. I gave up counting after 25 actors and actresses. Wow!

And now for the bad news, I’ve heard the show is sold out except for Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings! So there’s still time to get some tickets to this marvelous production at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center.

“For a…
Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way”

 

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