Davidson Community Players’ Production of “Mary Poppins” Pops and Flies!
Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious! That’s what I’d call Mary Poppins, the Davidson Community Players summer musical that opened Thursday evening at the Duke Family Performance Hall on the Davidson College campus. The show is superb!
Mary Poppins has everything to like on a musical stage—from lively tunes and dances to gorgeous sets, lighting, choreography, and costumes, with a happy storyline developed in an enchanting atmosphere—even flying actors above the stage! The opening night audience made no bones about it. They stood up and roared approval! So, did I.
Aside from the enjoyment of seeing a wonderful musical, my greatest pleasure was to find so many youths making their first appearance on the Davidson Community Players Main Stage. Over the past few years, I’ve been watching some of those youngsters perform in plays produced by Davidson’s Connie Company and on the Mooresville Community Children’s Theatre stage. Now, they have ‘graduated’ to the big time. Congratulations! Those singing hoofers really are good!
Tod A. Kubo, who has directed and choreographed plays and events all over the world, makes his debut with Davidson Community Players for direction and musical staging of Mary Poppins. I give him a standing ovation. The production is a winner!
Alexandra Corbett deserves recognition for the show’s clever lighting along with Brandon Kincaid’s sound design to create a series of environmental conditions as sets continually change. Those beautiful sets provided by Front Row Theatrical Rental are fabulous!
The choreography is fantastic, created by Debbie Silver Lauder. What seems like hundreds of colorful costumes designed by Chelsea Retalic enhance the figures of dozens of characters from a century ago. The orchestra under the direction of Vicki Clayton Harvell supports non-stop songs and dances rendered over two acts of the play.
A cast of nineteen polished main characters augmented by a superb lively Ensemble delivers the stage musical version of the story about a nanny called Mary Poppins. The book is written by the incomparable Julian Fellowes with original music and lyrics by the brothers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, including lyrics and music by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles.
Mary Poppins takes place in England’s early Twentieth Century in and around the Cherry Tree Lane home of the Banks family. George Banks, (a banker, of course) is played by Darren Spencer whose magnificent baritone chords resonate throughout the theatre. Although he can intone a powerful solo, A Man Has Dreams, Banks doesn’t understand his children. His wife, Winifred, portrayed by the accomplished actress Allison Rhinehardt, does and she sides with their children, Jane, and Michael Banks.
A pair of rascals, Jane, precociously performed by Emerson Bishop, and Michael, impishly portrayed by Cole Knight, manage to get rid of a cadre of strict nannies. They include Katie Nanna, played by Jilian Lauder (understudied by Destiney Wolfe) and Miss Andrew, their father’s cantankerous old nanny, portrayed by Karen Christensen. Then, Nanny Poppins appears at the door and then the fun begins.
Mary Poppins is played by the charming Cornelia Barnwell, a treasured gift bestowed, not only to the Banks family, but a shining gem for the Davidson Community Players. Gracefully she takes command of the stage dispensing generous doses of whimsical magic, churned by touches of misplaced common sense, sweetened with a powerful Spoonful of Sugar. The children love her.
So does the charismatic one-man band, sidewalk artist, chimney sweep, kite salesman, Bert, played with amazing agility by Aaron Marsh. He’s a charmer! Bert and Mary Poppins can fly a kite, dance on a rooftop, regale the children with mysterious whimsy, and fly overhead. Oh, can Bert ever fly!
During a visit at the park, under the watchful eye of a Policeman, played by Myles Arnold, and the Park Keeper, portrayed by Jordan White, the children are fascinated with the amazing statue of Neleus, elegantly portrayed by Taylor Minich—for astonishing reasons! Wow!
Nanny Poppins shows the children more. They meet Lady Bird, portrayed by the versatile Kimberly Butler, under St. Paul’s Cathedral, selling bags of crumbles for the pigeons. She also plays Mrs. Brill, the family cook, and Queen Victoria.
Robertson Ay, the clumsy, good-hearted butler, is portrayed by Joshua Cassels. He’s a hoot! And they get to know the snooty Miss Lark holding a yipping little dog in her arms played by Amy Young, who also portrays Miss Smythe.
Precision and Order sung by the Bank Chairman who fires George Banks is performed by Richard Colven, who also plays Mr. Banks’ imposing friend, Admiral Boom. John Northbrook is portrayed by Chris Brammer and Von Hussler by Hayden Waugh.
Mrs. Corry, a mysterious, very old lady, played by the ever-adaptable Emily Klingman, runs the Talking Shop where Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious originally takes its form. And the amazing Ensemble of tap dancers joins members of the principal crew to show how it’s done! I’m sure you’ll stand up and loudly roar approval. Which proves—anything can happen if you let it.
Mary Poppins is one of the best musicals produced by the Davidson Community Players. The play joins the fabulous Ragtime production from 2011 at the company’s virtual Musical Hall of Fame.
(For information about production dates and times, and to purchase tickets, visit the Davidson Community Players website.)