THEATRE UNDER THE STARS, Malkin Bowl, Until August 19th (with possible hold-over)
My Two Pence
My Two Cents
By Liz Gloucester
You know the words; you have experienced the magic, laughed until your heads hit the ceiling* and cried at the paternal reconciliation. This season Theatre Under the Stars meets your expectations of this family friendly classic and leaves you feeling as light as a kite.
I have too many people to praise to fit into a review so I'll go for quantity to be on the safe side. The ensemble are glorious. From the bustling maids' and servants' intricate and character-filled set changes; through to bombastic numbers such as cotton-candied, sherbet-pastelled high 'Jolly Holiday'; all performers young and veteran alike spill every ounce of energy and passion that they can muster onto the Malkin Bowl stage and not an ounce is wasted! I would also like to commend the designers on their inspired choice to attach penguins onto Victor Hunter's (playing Bert) shoes for their iconic 'group dance' section.
Lola Marshall and Nolen Dubuc are delightful as Jane and cheeky Michael Banks delivering lines clearly and confidently singing with a commendable maturity. I also enjoyed the contemplative moments we shared with their mother, played by Lalainia Lindbjerg-Strelau, although I do miss Glynis Johns belter 'Sister Suffragette' sadly missing from the Mackintosh musical. This version is however closer to creator P.L Travers' vision who detested the Disney incarnarion.
I believe Ranae Miller's performance would have pleased her greatly. Ever mesmerising Miller stands a head above the rest with her porcelain face and rosy cheeks. Her appearance is classic Poppins and her manner is a perfect balance between Andrews' magical, 'butter wouldn't melt' sugariness and Travers' 'face of stone heart of gold' approach. Her singing is breath-taking, sweet and strong with no hint of a leading lady's 'try-hard' belt.
I could go on my usual diatribe against semi-phony accents but I am refraining. Instead I would like to congratulate the performers, the designers, the crew and the volunteers. These are people who give up their entire summer to bring joy to the masses. They are on the whole only recompensed with the smiles, whoops and hollers from the audience - so go and see this show - delight yourselves - and give this production your support.
*Uncle Albert and his laughing gas do not grace the stage in the musical version.
By Kelly Moncton
The colour and warmth of Mary Poppins is a perfect treat for a summer evening in Stanley Park! The musical version of the story keeps many of the treasured songs and moments from the movie, tosses in some parts of the books, and adds a few new bits for a lovely mix. The only part that I missed was the brassy ‘Sister Suffragette’ song from the movie, but Mrs Banks
was still an important part of the story.
As the parents, Russell Roberts and Lalainia Lindbjerg-Strelau had a tricky line to walk, because their storyline was more intense and serious, but there were still many light moments involved. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them succeed as Mr and Mrs Banks. Jane and Michael, played by Lola Marshall and Nolen Dubuc, were also delightful as they sailed through all the magical moments and more heartfelt scenes with glee. It was impressive to see how they kept up with their adult co-stars.
Ranae Miller’s warmth shone through all of Mary Poppins’ propriety and
self-assurance, and she sounded and looked practically perfect, just as anyone could hope. Bert is asked to become half-narrator in this production, and Victor Hunter did a great job of switching moods on a dime. His character had Dick Van Dyke-esque moments, but just enough to make his own physicality and charm feel familiar.
The servants set the scene beautifully for all the fun to come in an opening scene full of bumble and fuss. I was consistently impressed by the energy and precision of the chorus. Jaime Piercy had a tough challenge playing a woman three times her age, and Steve Dotto’s Admiral wasn’t given much to sink his teeth into, but this are minor concerns in a show jam-packed with fun and goodwill, and even a puppy!
The set shifted and changed in ways that felt nearly as magical as Poppins’ bottomless handbag. It’s hard to believe that designer Brian Ball had any room left backstage for an entire second set for Drowsy Chaperone! The costumes were also beautifully done, with great contrasts between the magical moments with Mary and the more sober world Mr Banks inhabits.
There is so much to recommend this show, but I don’t think anyone would begrudge my saying that Feed the Birds was my favourite part. Cecilia Smith has performed at Theatre Under the Stars for decades, and when she came onstage as the Bird Woman, my heart melted. She sounded great, and charmed the entire audience.
Clearly, all of the performers and crew have brought a great deal of talent and hard work to Mary Poppins, and the result is a satisfying and
polished show! Go enjoy some nostalgia this summer.