MARY POPPINS -THE BROADWAY MUSICALA Musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film
Original Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellowes
New Songs and Additional Music and Lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Co-Created by Cameron Mackintosh
Gateway Performing Arts
Produced and Directed by Erik Snodgrass
Music Director – Jill Brewer
Choreographer – Ashtyn Campbell
Costume Design – Harris Costumes, Michelle Wentroble
Hair Design – Amy Smissen
Makeup Design – Rachel Edwards
Lighting Design – Pavel Perebillo
Sound Engineer – Mike Luzecky
Properties Design – Michael Klefeker
Scenic Design – Randel Wright, Erik Snodgrass
Backdrop Animation – Kevin Schreiber
Stage Manager – Teighlor Brewton
Senior Executive Producers – Thomas Miller, Mark Harris
Executive Producer – Niles Holsinger
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Mary Poppin – Nicole Choate
Bert – J. Scott Gage
George Banks – Matt Ervien
Winifred Banks – Ashley Sommer
Jane Banks – Alyssa Martin
Michael Banks – Gabriel Padgett
Katie Nanna – Cassie Weaver
Policeman – Brandon Borick
Miss Atchley/Miss Andres – Karrie Atchley (appears courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association)
Admiral Boom – Paul Phillips
Mrs. Brill – Amy Smissen
Robertson Ay – Larkin Felts
Park Keeper – Ryan Warren
Nelius/Valentine – Frankie Rivera
Queen Victoria – Michelle Wentroble
Bank Chairman – Paul Phillips
Miss Smythe – Victoria Watson
Von Hussler – Joshua Fargason
Northbrook – Craig Jerpi
Bird Woman – Jen Neese
Mrs. Corry – Danielle Hall
Fannie – Kailah Coleman
Annie – Cassie Weaver
Teddy Bear – Brandon Borick
Glamorous Doll – Ashtyn Campbell
Ensemble – Valarie Abraham, Ben Campbell, Andi Fredricks, Karah Johnston, Anita Michelle Jones, Amber McClintock, Gabrielle Norris, Michael Padilla, Julianne Plantes, Sarah Reed, Emma Richard, Obed Schultz, Shaun Stoehr
Reviewed Performance: 8/4/2018
Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
And it is. I must admit that I wasn’t sure of what I was going to see. I saw the film when it was first released in 1964 at the age of nine and have been in love with it ever since. Over the years I have read the first book in the Mary Poppins series which varies from the movie with a darker tone and a title character who is bossier and more vain. The adaptation for the stage has been done by Julian Fellowes (of “Gosford Park” and “Downton Abbey” fame) and draws on material from P. L. Traver’s books and The Walt Disney Film to create a stronger dramatic arc to the story than the movie and slightly darker tone more in tune to the books. Combine that with the original songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman (they also wrote some new numbers for the score) and new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and you end up with a play with the potential of being a great evening of family entertainment.
Gateway Performing Arts mines this potential with skill and joy. Under the direction of Erik Snodgrass, this production provides the nostalgia, the happiness, and tears you would expect from a play titled Mary Poppins. We are taken into the travails of the Banks family in London. The Husband, George, (Matt Ervien) is a banker who sees his role of father and husband as provider and head of the house with final say on everything and no domestic obligations. He sees those obligations as being handled solely by his wife, Winifred (Ashley Sommer), a former actress who is unsure of her present role of wife and mother. And the two children (down from five in the book), Jane (Alyssa Martin) and Michael (Gabriel Padgett), who crave the attention and love of their parents and act out by being brats, are relegated whatever nanny they haven’t driven off yet.
We are introduced to the Banks family of Cherry Tree Lane by Bert (J. Scott Gage), a cockney jack-of-all-trades and master of all, who acts as our narrator through the proceedings. And he starts with the lines “Wind in the East, Mist comin’ in, like somethin’ is brewin’, and ‘bout to begin…”, which, for some reason always give me chills when I hear them. The something “brewin’’’ is the wind and riding on the wind with her umbrella is the answer to the Banks’ Nanny problem is Mary Poppins (Nicole Choate). She comes into the house and immediately begins the process of redeeming the entire family. What follows is a magical journey brought to life brilliantly by Gateway Performing Arts. The set design by Randel Wright and Erik Snodgrass is a series of framed projection screens providing the background design, which beautifully takes us from Cherry Tree Lane, to the Banks’ house, to the park and up and away to the rooftops of London. Various set pieces changed between scenes make for seamless transitions which contribute to the quick pace and energy of the show. The projections are also animated in places (thanks to Kevin Schreiber), to add to the wonder and the graphic transitions from scene to scene with turns and twists seem to dance along with the cast.
The costumes, designed by Harris Costumes and Michelle Wentroble, take us hobnobbing with the aristocracy and skipping with the chimney sweeps with authenticity and color. Makeup by Rachel Edwards and hair design by Amy Smissen blend with the costumes and take us to Edwardian London with style and flair. The lighting design by Pavel Perebillo complements the proceedings with color and precision and adds a great deal to the proceedings.
The choreography by Ashtyn Campbell is so much fun to watch. From intimate numbers to the sprawling “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step in Time”, Ms. Campbell’s work is full of fire and energy. I also wish to acknowledge Sarah Reed for the tap choreography in “Step in Time” which made me want to dance along in my seat. Vocal Coach Jill Brewer and Dialect Coach Keren Johnson are to be commended for keeping the singing strong and the accents believable.
I commend Erik Snodgrass for the crispness of his direction. Clocking in at over two and half hours, he keeps everything moving with energy, so the time seems to pass very quickly. And he has a remarkably talent cast to work with.
Nicole Choate as Mary Poppins matches the entire production as being “practically perfect in every way”. In appearance and, sometimes in voice, she resembles Julie Andrews from the movie, but she is very much her own person. Miss Choate’s Mary is charmingly bossy and takes directions from no one. She sings with clarity and makes numbers like “Spoonful of Sugar”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, and the lovely “Feed the Birds” soar (the latter song never fails to make me cry.)
J. Scott Gage is an engaging and amiable Bert. Hearing him sing and watching him dance, I never once during the show think of Dick Van Dyke. Mr. Gage makes Bert his own and his performance benefits from the joy he is having playing the character. He especially shines in the “Step in Time” dance number. Matt Ervien’s George Banks is a firm, unwavering patriarch in the beginning and takes us with him on his journey through fear of losing his job (through a decision at work that he felt was right) to his realization of his love for his wife and family and his discovery of his desire to be a real husband and Father. Mr. Ervien’s sure singing voice adds authority to his character. Winifred Banks is portrayed by Ashley Sommer with a questioning and wistful air. Her character is unsure of her roles as mother and wife and Ms. Sommer shows this wonderfully through her singing and acting.
Jane and Michael Banks are played by Alyssa Martin and Gabriel Padgett respectively, and are wonderfully bratty in the beginning. Both are good singers, and both seen to be having a great time on stage. One thing the script gives us, which I enjoy, is the children remain bratty and resistant longer, causing Mary Poppins and their toys to make an important decision before the intermission. Alyssa and Gabriel both show the children’s conversion to obedient and loving children with truth and joy. Frankie Rivera is delightful as the dancing statue Nelius and as the much-abused toy Valentine. Mr. Rivera makes his dancing look effortless. Karri Atchley plays double duty as the dowager Miss Lark with her dog Andrew and as Miss Andrew, George Banks former Nanny known as “the Holy Terror”. With the character of Miss Andrew, Karri Atchley is given a porterhouse steak of a role and chews up the entire thing with relish. Her number “Brimstone and Treacle” is a highlight.
The entire cast is to be thanked for a great evening of theater. They supply the energy and the joy to make the entire production magical. But don’t take my word for it. Grab a tape measure and head over to Gateway Performing Arts for the final weekend of the run. I think you’ll find they measure up beautifully.
Presented by Gateway Performing Arts
August 8 – 10, 2018
August 8,9 10, & 11 – 7:00Pm
August 11 – 2:00PM, August 12 – 3:00PM
The King’s University Auditorium
2121 E. Southlake Blvd.
Southlake, TX 76092
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