Review: ‘Mary Poppins’ at Reston Community Players

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Mary Poppins Flies Into Reston CenterStage For A Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Treat

Reston Community Players’ production of Mary Poppins is a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious treat for the entire family. With spectacular sets, an enthusiastic cast, and a spoonful of sugar, Mary Poppins offers a new take on the beloved movie musical.

This Broadway hit is based on the 1964 Walt Disney movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, though following a slightly different story. The development of the stage show was long and ongoing, as P.L. Travers refused to give the rights to Disney, who she felt had misconstrued her stories. Instead, she gave the stage rights to Cameron Macintosh – producer of well-known Broadway classics such as Cats, Les Misérables, and Phantom of the Opera.  In return, Macintosh had to promise the author that the musical would not be as overly sweet as Disney had made it. However, to appeal to a greater audience, Macintosh knew that the Disney music must be brought to his production. Thus, a partnership was born.

The cast of 'Mary Poppins.' Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.
The cast of ‘Mary Poppins.’ Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.

The result is a bright, lively musical that does in fact adhere closely to the Disney movie. Even if you have not revisited the movie since childhood, as soon as each character appears on stage and each song begins, you will be transported to a happier time and place in Director Wade Corder’s lovingly crafted production.

Duane Monohan (Bert). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.
Duane Monahan (Bert). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.

Music Directors Dana and Jim Van Slyke bring a level of professionalism and purity to their work, drawing out exceptional performances from the orchestra and making the most of the singers’ abilities.

Andrea Heininge’s choreography is beautiful and cleanly executed by an enthusiastic ensemble. “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” stood out as lively and engaging production numbers.

The sets, designed by Rick Schneider, Sara Birkhead, Greg Steele, Bea Morse, and Jerry Morse, are spectacular, transporting one back to Cherry Tree Lane and the rooftops of London. True magic occurs with the special effects in Spoonful of Sugar and Practically Perfect. Although the scene changes were cumbersome at times, this should hopefully smooth itself out over the run of the show.

Charlotte Marson, Judy Whelihan, and Carol Steele’s costume designs are bright and evocative of the iconic characters, particularly in Jolly Holiday” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” 

Ward Ferguson (George Banks). Phot by Traci J. Brooks Studio.
Ward Ferguson (George Banks). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.

The underlying story is a familiar one: George and Winifred Banks, played touchingly by Ward Ferguson and Amanda Jones respectively, live in Edwardian London with their mischievous and attention-starved children, Jane and Michael, played by winsome youngsters Avery Daniel and Aidan Chomicki. As the head of the household, George feels pressured in his role as banker, father, and husband, while wife Winifred yearns to find her place as Mrs. Banks. Who better to unravel the complicated knots of this dysfunctional family than Mary Poppins?

Shaina Murphy brings a bright and engaging performance to the titular role and is a delight to watch as she faces off with the Banks family and even the Holy Terror of all nannies, Miss Andrew, villainously played by Kate Keifer. Murphy’s singing is clear and pure, absolutely suited for that practically perfect nanny, Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins is often aided in her adventures by Bert, cheerfully portrayed by Duane Monahan. Monahan brings excitement and a spring in his step to the role as he guides the audience through the action in his many personas, from chimney sweep to street cleaner to organ grinder.

Standouts in the cast include Ward Ferguson, who touchingly and poignantly captures the essence of George Banks’ transformation from frustrated and uptight banker to caring father and husband. Ferguson’s beautiful and expressive voice was especially touching in “A Man Has Dreams.” Cara Giambrone and Kieth Flores provide comic relief as the constantly bickering servants, Mrs. Brill and Robertson Ay. Philip Smith-Cobbs (Neleus) and Caroline Griswold stood out among the dancers with fresh and exciting performances.

 (Mary Poppins). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.
Shaina Murphy (Mary Poppins). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studio.

With its combination of beautiful costumes and sets, a glorious band, and engaging musical numbers, Reston Community Player’s production of Mary Poppins lives up to its musical promise that “anything can happen if you let it.”

Running Time: Three hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Mary Poppins plays through March 12, 2016 at The Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA.  A special sensory sensitive performance will be performed on February 27th. For tickets call the box office at (703) 476-4500 x3, or purchase them online.

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