Review: Mary Poppins (Marriott Theatre)

| November 10, 2013
Summer Naomi Smart as Mary Poppins in Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)

       
      
Mary Poppins 

Music/Lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman,
    George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Book by Julian Fellowes
Directed by Gary Griffin
at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (map)
thru Jan 5  |  tickets: $40-$48   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
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Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious it’s not

     

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)

    
Marriott Theatre presents
    
Mary Poppins

Review by Catey Sullivan 

You can’t blame the actors. In the Marriott Theatre staging of Disney’s Mary Poppins, Summer Naomi Smart is absolutely spitspot-on as the title character, a "practically perfect" (to quote the famous nanny’s own description of herself) combination of sweet and tart with deft dollops of compassion and pert, unshakable self-regard mixed in. As for Ms. Poppins’ chum Bert, Bernie Yvon brings his signature blend of charismatic mischievousness to the fleet-footed chimney sweep. And as Mr. Banks, Rod Thomas is marvelous as a stuffy, aloof, cluelessly domineering patriarch who gradually comes to appreciate his wife as an equal and to demonstrably love his children as they deserve.

Johnny Rabe and Madison Gloria Olszewski in Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs) But the Marriott’s overall take on Richard and Robert Sherman‘s musical definitely does not add up to a jolly holiday with Mary. Directed by Gary Griffin, the show is all but thoroughly derailed by a barrage of cheap-looking cartoons projected on what are essentially flat screen TVs hovering over the in-the-round stage. By using video in lieu of a compelling set and by grounding the famously flying nanny, the Marriott succeeds in presenting a show that feels creatively lazy and thoroughly uninspired. The piece is the opposite of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, a Mary Poppins without magic. It is also inexplicably minus a crucial scene wherein toys come to life in order to teach naughty children the value of respect and kindness.

Matters begin to deteriorate the moment those infernal screens light up. Shortly after a silhouette of Mary does a video fly-by, we are taken to the Banks’ home, which is indicated not so much by an actual set, as by blocky cartoons of vaguely Edwardian-eraesque furniture. A similarly chintzy approach is taken to the rooftops of London, (below the video skies, it appears that someone plopped a few left-over steamship chimneys on stage), the park where chalk drawings and statues are supposed to come to life (the drawings are a non-entity, and there’s a single cavorting statue), in the cathedral square where the Bird Lady (gorgeously voiced by Rebecca Finnegan) is allegedly surrounded by soaring sparrows (they flap by on, yes, the high-tech TV screens.) and at Mr. Banks’ bank.

Also dismaying: The decision to cut “Temper, Temper” from the proceedings. The number – wherein young Jane and Michael’s toys come nightmarishly to life and berate the children for misbehaving – is a welcome counterbalance to Richard and Robert Sherman’s generally upbeat score. Children can be cruel and childhood can be a dark, scary place, realities that are captured with honesty and vigor in this scene. Without the number, Mary Poppins veers a bit too close to depicting childhood as a time of unabated lollipops and gingerbread.

Summer Naomi Smart as Mary Poppins in Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs) Caroline Heffernan and Brady Tutton in Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)
Summer Naomi Smart and Bernie Yvon as Mary Poppins and Bert in Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs) Step in Time from Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)

On the plus side, Mary Poppins sounds terrific. A nine piece orchestra helmed by conductor Patti Garwood and musical director Michael Mahler succeed in creating a sonically gorgeous centerpiece for the show. The rich harmonies of numbers including “Feed the Birds” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” soar throughout the theater while the ebullient energy of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step in Time” creates a joyful noise indeed. Choreographer Alex Sanchez does a fine job with the show-stopping “Step in Time”, and the hyper-glee of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.

The Marriott has oft faced unique and daunting challenges due to its in-the-round stage. They’ve worked minor miracles there in the past, conquering the demands presented by the likes of Les Miserables (which requires a barricade no less) and Miss Saigon sans helicopter, among others. Why they’ve been so unimaginative here is puzzling. The only explanation I can surmise? The screens are brand spanking new, and they wanted to show them off.

  
Rating: ★★½
  
   

Mary Poppins continues through January 5th at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire (map), with performances Wednesdays 1pm and 8pm, Thursdays and Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 4:30pm/8pm, Sundays 1pm/5pm.  Tickets are $40-$48, and are available by phone (847-634-0200) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at MarriottTheatre.com(Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes, includes an intermission)

"Step in Time" from Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)

Photos by Peter Coombs 


     

artists

cast

Summer Naomi Smart (Mary Poppins), Bernie Yvon (Bert), Susan Moniz (Winifred Banks), Rod Thomas (George Banks), Caroline Heffernan (Jane Banks), Madison Gloria Olszewski (Jane Banks), Johnny Rabe (Michael Banks), Brady Tutton (Michael Banks), John Reeger (Admiral Boom, Bank Chairman), Paula Scrofano (Mrs. Brill), Matthew Crowle (Robertson Ay), Rebecca Finnegan (Bird Woman, Miss Andrew, Katie Nanna), Johanna McKenzie Miller (Mrs. Corry, Miss Lark), William Carlos Angulo (Neleus, Ensemble), Jameson Cooper (Park Keeper, Northbrook, Ensemble), Devin DeSantis (Von Hussler, Ensemble), Ericka Mac (Miss Smythe, Ensemble), Sam Rogers (Policeman, Ensemble), Melissa Zaremba (Dance Captain, Ensemble), Lauren Blane, Jaclyn Burch, Raymond Interior, Adam Rogers, Amanda Tanguay, Brandi Wooten (Ensemble).

behind the scenes

Gary Griffin (director), Alex Sanchez (choreographer), Michael Mahler (music director), Andy Hite (artistic director), Tom Ryan (set design), Mike Tutaj (projection design), Nancy Missimi (costume design), Diane Ferry Williams (lighting design), Bob Gilmartin (sound design), Sally Weiss (props design), Patti Garwood (musical supervisor, conductor), Peter Coombs (photos)

Bernie Yvon stars as Bert in Marriott Theatre's "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)

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Category: 2013 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Marriott Theatre, Musical

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