The cast of the 2013 production of Mary Poppins. Photo by David Cooper.
The cast of the 2013 production of Mary Poppins. Photo by David Cooper.

Looking for a little magic this Christmas season? With gorgeous sets, stage-pounding choreography, stellar singing, and excellent wire work, the Arts Club Theatre Company’s Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical practically oozes Christmas magic and delights with a charm that is sure to jump-start your holiday spirit.

[pullquote]Sara-Jeanne Hosie shines as Poppins. Her Mary is a touch more stern, a trace more snarky than the candy-coloured girl seen in the 1964 film, but there’s one similarity that cannot be denied. Hosie is a vocal dead-ringer for Julie Andrews; possibly even more powerful.[/pullquote]Mixing the plot from the classic film with those from the P.L. Travers’ novels, Mary Poppins: the Broadway Musical focuses on the dynamics of the Banks family. As the show opens, Jane and Michael Banks have just succeeded in chasing away yet another nanny with their naughty antics. Mr. Banks wants “precision and order” in a nanny, but the children interject with a list of their own. Of course, it is this children’s cry for help that summons the magical nanny and it only takes a few seconds before she bursts onto the stage, bag in hand. The following two hours explore the relationships of the family as Mary and her magic work to fix more than just a broken table.

Sara-Jeanne Hosie shines as Poppins. Her Mary is a touch more stern, a trace more snarky than the candy-coloured girl seen in the 1964 film, but there’s one similarity that cannot be denied. Hosie is a vocal dead-ringer for Julie Andrews; possibly even more powerful. There’s a level of control in Hosie’s voice that is absolutely effortless – doing nothing to dispel Mary’s practically perfect epithet.

Warren Kimmel makes Mr. Banks a surprisingly sympathetic man right from the get-go, resulting in a final dance sequence that is as much a treat as it is deeply satisfying. Kassia Danielle Malmquist and Graham Verchere as the two Banks’s children are astonishing in their skill and precision while Caitriona Murphy as Winifred Banks carries the heart of the show on her slim shoulders. In a world of magic and colour, Murphy is that dash of reality that grants the show an emotional depth.

Scott Walters as Bert and Sara-Jeanne Hoise as Mary. Photo by David Cooper.
Scott Walters as Bert and Sara-Jeanne Hoise as Mary. Photo by David Cooper.

And the sets! They are thirty foot illustrations from a picture book. Moving from rooftop to street front, park to night sky, Alison Green’s sets are painted with a vintage whimsy that is perfectly offset by Marsha Sibthorpe’s lighting design and Craig Alfredson’s projections. From birds, to petals and Mary herself, the use of projections modernizes the show without pulling focus and the effects are a tool rather than a showpiece.

The wire work by both Hosie and Scott Walters (Bert) is confident with Walters’s ceiling stroll an unexpected treat. Both elicited audible gasps from children and adults alike in the standout moments of the night.

But the biggest hats off goes to the ensemble. The show-stopping dance number “Step in Time” was filled with such fun that even when one dancer dropped his broom he merely laughed and continued on. Of particular note was Anna Kuman who was having such a good time in both “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” that it is difficult to keep your eyes off her.

In such a polished show though, it was surprising that the accents were so inconsistent. While they were generally on point during the songs, the same words would often be pronounced differently the moment they were spoken. The only exception to this was Walters, whose mobile features and campy movements neatly matched Bert’s cockney lilt.

Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical is so full of childhood memories and warm feelings of family that it is perfect for those wanting an extra injection of holiday spirit. It’s just the spoonful of sugar that you need.

Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical based on the stories of P.L Travers and the Walt Disney Film. Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. Book by Julian Fellowes. Directed by Bill Millerd. An Arts Club Theatre Company production. On stage at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage (2750 Granville St, Vancouver) until January 4th . Visit http://artsclub.com for tickets and information.

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