‘Mary Poppins’ at Oakton High School

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Everyone’s favorite Nanny has flown into the halls of Oakton High School. This toe tapping production will get everyone energized as the cast performs iconic songs from the classic Disney movie, as well as new staging brought in from the Broadway production. With a cast of over 30, Mary Poppins is a dazzling display of excitement.

 Megan Griggs (Mary Poppins). Photo courtesy of Oakton High School.
Megan Griggs (Mary Poppins). Photo courtesy of Oakton High School.

The story of Mary Poppins is one that many have heard time and time again. Based on the stories of P.L. Travers, a nanny comes – or rather, flies in – and takes care of two troublesome Banks children, who live with an unsupportive and involved father and a rule follower yet caring mother. The children learn through Mary Poppins that if they are kind and generous, anything can happen!

This musical may seem like a very daunting task with all the magic, huge sets, big dance numbers, and of course flying. But, Oakton High School’s production of Mary Poppins managed to incorporate all of these elements into a wonderful evening of theatre.

As Mary Poppins takes place in several locations, the set needs to be ever changing. Thanks to the set design of the Oakton High School Tech Class, the Mary Poppins set could be changed and moved around to form different locations. The main set was the giant Banks house, a two level space with a very Victorian style to it. It was very clear that a lot of detail had been put into making the set look just right. A little detail that I appreciated was how the clock above the fireplace would display a different time each time it was onstage. Aside from the main living room area, the show also took place in different rooms of the house such as the bedroom and the kitchen, both rooms still keeping with the Victorian theme. Although the set changes were a bit long, each time the curtain opened we were greeted with a new set.

When she first enters the room, there’s no doubt that the person onstage is Mary Poppins. Carrying a carpet bag and parrot umbrella, Mary Poppins, played by Megan Griggs, is instantly recognizable. Griggs has clearly done her research on Mary as she gets every mannerism and motion spot on. Carrying herself as a strong British woman it is clear that Mary is there for a reason. Thanks to the help of Dialect Coach Dave Cassidy, everyone in the cast had a British accent down. Griggs not only does a great job of acting with an accent, she has also managed to sing with one too.

Other notable characters are Mr. and Mrs. Banks, played by Rob Condas and Savannah Hard. The two expressed a very strong emotional connection and worked very well off each other. They were able to pull off a struggling relationship and all of the heightened emotion that comes with it.

Michael Williamson (Bert). Photo courtesy of Oakton High School.
Michael Williamson (Bert). Photo courtesy of Oakton High School.

The loveable chimney sweep Bert, played by Michael Williamson, is full of energy and spunk. Williamson plays the role with such enthusiasm you can’t help but watch him while he was onstage.

Another enthusiastic player is Muriel Wandey, playing the role of Mrs. Corey. Even though she appeared in only one number, Muriel was unstoppable. With a huge smile on her face she commanded the stage.

Wandey was also the choreographer for the show, designing fast up-paced dance numbers that kept the show rolling. The choreography was very flashy and helped keep the audience engaged by some points bringing it out into the crowd. It was clear that more time had been spend on the bigger cast numbers such as “Step in Time.” The crowd favorite was of course the iconic “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” sung by Wandey.

No show ever goes quite “practically perfect,” and Oakton High School’s Mary Poppins was no exception. Throughout the night there were a few missed lines, and some sets and lights that didn’t quite make it onstage on time. But I do have to applaud the cast and crew for pushing through and not letting it damper their spirit. In fact, whenever something unexpected happened, the cast just amped up their performance. Everyone in the cast look extremely excited to be a part of such a show, and every actor did a fantastic job of creating different characters and scenes within the ensemble.

The show, under the vocal direction of Tiffany Powell, sounded great. There was strong vocal power in each song, and every word could be understood – not easy in a high school auditorium. That can also be accredited to Connor Golden, Tim Irwin, and Jack Griggs on sound crew. Each mic picked up the actors and there was no annoying feedback or cutting out of microphones.

A special nod to Linda Baker who designed over 200+ colorful and exquisite costumes for the show. The colorful costumes helped to tell the story and made each song and dance so joyous.

What is Mary Poppins without magic? I was very surprised and happy to see how much magic Oakton put into their show. Each trick was executed very precisely with very little give away as to how they did it. In the song “Spoonful of Sugar,” the magical abilities were shown off very nicely. A table magically fixes itself after being broke in two, and rows of plates pick themselves off the ground and go back on the shelf. It is evident that each trick was handcrafted and carefully put into the show. One of the most amazing things that Oakton was able to pull off was the flying. With a crew of five people working to make sure that this stunt is done correctly, it is really incredible to watch Mary lift off the stage and fly away. It is also very impressive to see a chimney sweep hanging upside-down from the proscenium arch. As you can tell, Oakton made very good use of its space.

Overall, I found Oakton High School’s production of Mary Poppins very entertaining. With an energetic ensemble and very skilled vocalists as the leads, it was an enjoyable evening of theatre.

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Mary Poppins ends its run tonight, May 9, 2015, at 7 PM at Oakton High School’s Robert Skip Bromley Auditorium – 2900 Sutton Road, in Vienna, VA. Tickets are available at the door.

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1 COMMENT

  1. There truly are no adjectives in the English language that can effectively describe the caliber of artistry present in the sensational costumes Mrs. Linda Baker designed and constructed. Every single one of the 200+ costumes was lovingly, thoughtfully, and impeccably designed and constructed to not only be “period,” but also to expertly add to the characterization and plot development required to tell the story of Mary Poppins. Not only were the dresses and suits awe-inspiring, but every hat, button, trim, boot jack, scarf, and other accessory were also designed to add to the magic present on stage.

    Beautiful, charming, awesome, and splendid are all adjectives too weak to use in describing Mrs. Baker’s artistry. Stunning, magnificent, and exquisite might be a little better in terms of connotation, but they still don’t provide the respect and admiration those costumes deserve.

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