Saturday, September 19, 2015

Midland's "Mary Poppins" practically perfect in every way

The chimney sweeps dance with Mary Poppins and Bert (Emily and Bill Anderson Jr.) at center 

review and photographs by janet i. martineau

Truth be told, the Midland Center for the Arts production of the musical “Mary Poppins” is, as the flying English nanny herself sings, “practically perfect in every way” -- except maybe the set.

And up the clock Bert climbs
The show, which opened Friday night, has oodles of special effects -- a kitchen that falls apart and then repairs itself, both people and kites that fly, grandfather clocks that come out of a small carpet bag, statues and toys come to life, and one character who walks up a clock sideways. 

Intensely colorful costumes seem to get changed in a flash of an eye. Highrise set pieces with cast members atop them, like rooftops and chimneys, churn the stomach in fears someone will take a terrible tumble.  And there is even a live dog in the mix.

Humanwise this is a STRONG cast with exquisite singing skills and solid acting chops -- thank you director Laura Brigham for delivering them and this show in such fine form. 

Among the standouts are Tony Serra as the exceptionally stern and cross father of the house, Amy Meilink as the house maid, Joe Saba as the family no-so-handy-man, Katrina Doud as the “Feed the Birds” woman, Kori Orlowski as the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”  shop owner and  Wendy Winters as the nanny from hell who will engage in a singing duel with Mary Poppins.

And the two leads, married in real life, bring a star quality and professional aura to the show with Emily Anderson as Mary Poppins and Bill Anderson Jr. as her chimney sweep buddy Bert.

But where the whole thing takes absolute flight is in the choreography by Jennifer Bills Kennedy, a dance teacher who lives in Freeland and works in Bay County. 

These cast members, from leads to small roles, dance their hearts out and we mean stepping in time from start to finish in ensemble numbers that are too good to be true. Especially the chimney sweep number. And  “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” that just builds and builds and builds. 

it is frankly the main reason to see the show -- to watch the power, athleticism, unity and inventiveness; keeping in mind these cast members are not trained dancers of a dance company.

If there is a downside it is the set pieces that are a little cartoonish and cumbersome. and sometimes seem a odd (like in the park scene).

But frankly who was looking at the set when we could revel in the fury of the choreography, or  close our eyes and listen to the melodious voices singing this oh-so-familiar and delightful score, or bathe in the color of those costumes.

For more pictures: