The sure remedy for domestic dysfunction (or boredom on a summer evening) is a spoonful of sugar, a pinch of magic, and a practically perfect nanny, all of which can be acquired with a ticket to September Song Musical Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins, produced by Joan Eichhorn, directed by Debbie Mobely, and with music directed by Rachel McCusker. The community group based in Carroll County, MD, brought a healthy dose of an enchanting feeling of child-like wonder to its audience through polished music and touching performances by the cast (complete with remarkably consistent British accents!).
Mary Poppins began as a 1934 children’s book by P.L. Travers before being adapted into the classic 1964 Disney film starring Julie Andrews as Mary in her Academy Award-winning performance, and Dick Van Dyke as Bert. It was later adapted into a stage musical with music by the Sherman Brothers and book by Julian Fellowes, which came to Broadway in 2006.
The story, narrated by the Cockney chimney sweep Bert, opens on the dysfunctional Banks family on Cherry Tree Lane in London. With austere, business-minded father George bearing down upon discontented wife Winifred and unruly children Jane and Michael, the family appears to be on the verge of breaking down- but one day, a nanny by the name of Mary Poppins drops on their doorstep from the sky to bring them back together with the help of a little magic and a lot of love.
Katie Sheldon took on the titular role with aplomb. Her equanimity and elegance made for a grand stage presence, and her dulcet soprano voice brought beloved songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar” to life marvelously.
As the lovable chimney sweep and narrator, Bert, Eric Stein had remarkable chemistry with scene partners that helped bring the show’s many colorful and magical characters into the story in a cohesive way. He additionally helmed the show’s standout number, “Step in Time,” with spirited tap choreography by Amy Appleby, bringing new life and energy into the latter half of the show.
Jim Gross carried out a satisfying arc for George Banks, progressing from convincingly rigid to more warm and loving throughout the show.
Christy Stromberg gave an earnest and heartfelt performance as Winifred Banks; the audience became thoroughly invested in her character’s plight through the lovely and tender standout ballad, “Being Mrs. Banks.”
Compton Little and Julianna Groves were absolute delights to behold as Jane and Michael Banks. The duo delivered polished performances, bright vocals, and moments of comedy that are rare to see from such young performers. Other standouts from the colorful and collegial cast included Elaine Conover, who brought pure delight to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” as magical French baker Mrs.Corry, Liz Kanner, who displayed a daunting presence and impressive vocal range as Mary’s evil counterpart, Mrs.Brill, and Jack Patterson, who showcased strong dance abilities as the friendly statue Neleus and helped anchor the show’s group dance numbers.
The show’s costumes, by Janine Polanowski, were a feast for the eyes. The mixture of hand-constructed, rented, and acquired pieces fit the time period effectively in a bright, luxurious color palette of reds, blues, pinks, yellows, and greens that were reminiscent of both upper class London regality and Easter Sunday attire.
The sets, coordinated by Joe Staub, included a roll-on living room of the Banks household, with walls on either side painted to look three-dimensional in a charming, story-book-like style.
The show’s microphones and orchestra backing track were consistently clear, thanks to Sound Engineer Corey Brown. Wide arrays of colorful props were created by Missy Grim, and lighting was designed by Tabetha White.
The September Song Musical Theatre’s entertaining production of Mary Poppins is certainly as sweet as sugar.
Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
Mary Poppins ends its run tonight, Saturday, August 8, 2015 at 8:00 pm at The September Song Musical Theatre performing at South Carroll High School – 1300 West Old Liberty Road, in Sykesville, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.