-by Jamie Flowers
feature image: Sophie Aguilar as Jane Banks, Steve Pacek as Bert, Hanna Gaffney as Mary Poppins & Ollie Gregorio as Michael Banks by Linda Johnson
Mary Poppins is the perfect way to celebrate your “jolly holiday” season, it is playing now through New Year’s Eve at the charming Quintessence Theatre in Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. This musical is a blend of the original book series by P.L. Travers and the beloved 1964 Disney film. With music and lyrics by the Sherman brothers, additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and a script by Julian Fellowes this is a popular choice for schools and community theater. The original West End production opened in December 2004 and won two Olivier Awards, one for best actress and one for best choreography. The Broadway production received seven Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Scenic Design. It is practically perfect in every way!
The musical follows the same premise as the Disney movie with a few changes that I will let you experience for yourself. The Banks family is struggling to find a nanny to watch their children (Jane and Michael Banks are adorably played by Sophie Aguilar and Raphael Sommer). They both do an excellent job of playing naughty children turned good without any precociousness. The children have scared off several other nanny’s before the enchanting and wonderfully charming Mary Poppins arrives. Poppins is played by Hanna Gafney and she does such a superb job that rivals Julie Andrews in charisma. Speaking of charisma, Steve Pacek plays such a delightful Bert that all little boys and girls that go see this production will grow up wanting to be chimney sweeps with full cockney accents. He might even give Dick Van Dyke a run for his money. Lee Thomas Cortopassi plays and adorable but ridiculous Robertson Ay with such playfulness that the children in the audience were falling out of their seats with laughter. He also played the Park Keeper, Northbrook and part of the Ensemble. Other actors include: the captivating Marcia Saunders and Miss Brill, the Bird Woman and Ensemble, the humorous Daniel Miller as Neleus, Soldier, Policeman and Ensemble, the rousing Jered McLenigan as George Banks, the loveable Deanna Gibson as Winfred Banks, the cheery Taylor J Mitchell as Annie/ Frannie, Miss Lark, Valentine, and Ensemble, the engaging Eleni Delopoulos as Miss Corry, Queen Victoria, Katie Nanna and Ensemble and lastly the very enjoyable Brooke Behmke as Miss Andre, Admiral Boom and Ensemble.
What was so amazing about the show was that the original Broadway cast represented by 34 actors, yet Quintessence’s entire show is performed by 12 actors (including the two children) and backstage crew of three. What was striking to most audience members was how labor intensive and athletic the scenic transitions were. Alexander Burns, the Artistic Director and Emily Trask, the director conceptualizing and staging these incredible changes. I love how no matter what you see at the Quintessence, the entire theater is used and the audience practically becomes part of the show. Cheers to the backstage crew that consisted of Sydnei Williams, Cat Brennan and Emmie Parker. Everyone in this production of Mary Poppins did a stand out job!
Mary Poppins is a classic story that is just right for a date night or family outing. Or if you have the chance, bring everyone you know because there is truly something for everyone to enjoy. The nostalgic songs have been reworked from the movie but you will leave feeling like your just saw an old friend for the first time in a long time and be better off for it. It is truly Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Tickets are available at www.quintessencetheatre.org.