Mary Poppins soars at Broadway Theater

By MICHELLE JACOBY

The cast of Mary Poppins performs “Jolly Holiday.”

The cast of Mary Poppins performs “Jolly Holiday.”

The world’s most favorite nanny is flying into town this month at the Westchester Broadway Theatre.

“Mary Poppins” has arrived with her high-flying umbrella in one hand and her magic carpetbag in the other.

This fun-filled story has kept audiences captivated ever since the author, P.L. Travers, penned the beloved tale in 1934. It took Walt Disney more than 20 years to convince Travers to turn her book into the film version we all know and love.

The film was released in 1964, receiving a total of 13 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. The Disney film won five Academy Awards including Best Actress for Julie Andrews.

In this new production, it seems fitting Lauren Blackman’s first song as Mary Poppins is confidently singing, “Practically Perfect” because she is. Julie Andrews would be proud. Blackman’s poise and strong performance carries the show, while her natural chemistry on stage allows the other characters to shine in their own right.

Lauren Blackman, as Mary Poppins, Gabriel Reis and Michelle Moughan, as Michael and Jane Banks, and Laura Cable, as Bird Woman, during “Feed the Birds.” Photos/John Vecchiolla

Lauren Blackman, as Mary Poppins, Gabriel Reis and Michelle Moughan, as Michael and Jane Banks, and Laura Cable, as Bird Woman, during “Feed the Birds.” Photos/John Vecchiolla

Blackman and Leo Ash Evens as Bert seem to have the most fun. Their quiet admiration for each other make them quite a team. The audience enters their magical world with “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

The two “unruly” children, Jane and Michael Banks, are played by Jane Shearin and Brandon Singel. The mischievous pair seemed to be tamed by Mary Poppins and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” The children’s wide-eyed amazement in “Playing the Game,” in which the toys come to life, and the enduring scenes with their father and mother show the children’s true range in
talent.

George and Winifred Banks are played by Joseph Dellger and Leisa Mather. His gruff attitude played against Mather’s lovely Winifred compliment each other well.

A little flavor is added with comic relief that comes with an apron and a duster in hand as the maid, Mrs. Brill, played hysterically by Karen Murphy. Her sidekick, Matias Stegmann, plays Robertson Ay.

Two small parts large in talent and song are Jan Neuberger as the wicked Mrs. Andrew and Laura Cable as the Bird Woman.

Costume Design by Derek Lockwood is beautifully put together and complimented Richard Strafford’s choreography, especially in “Jolly Holiday”, “Let’s Go Fly A Kite,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “Step In Time.” These high-energy, larger-than-life dance numbers remind us all of the magic that happens on Cherry Tree Lane.

“Anything can happen if you let it.”

Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. New songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Musical direction by Leo P. Carusone. Set design by Steve Loftus. Lighting design by Andrew Gmoser.

This Bill Stutler and Bob Funking production of “Mary Poppins, The Broadway Musical” is playing now through July 27 at the Westchester Broadway Theatre. For more information, please call  914-592-2222, or visit their web site at broadwaytheatre.com.

Congratulations to the Westchester Broadway Theatre, by the way, for celebrating its 40th Anniversary on July 9, 2014.