November 30, 2016
Having a long run on Broadway from 2007 to 2013, it is safe to day that any incarnation of Mary Poppins will not disappoint even the most devoted fans. One thing is sure; this still remains one of the most popular tales to this day as confirmed by the enthusiastic, nearly sold out audience at the John W. Engeman Theatre in Northport. The iconic story’s musical adaptation, now playing through January 1st at the gorgeous Long Island venue, features an exceptional and spirited cast.
When attending the staged version – The Engeman’s wonderfully directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey– you will see that it does not completely mirror the familiar 1964 P.L. Travers/Disney movie at several points. In typical fashion, things are added/taken out/expanded/moved around. Let me tell you, though, that the outstanding cast gets everything right.
Superbly leading the talented company is Broadway vet Analisa Leaming as Mary Poppins. As we know, things at the Banks household go awry at first when the mysterious and magical Mary is employed as a nanny for the Banks children. She and Mr. Banks – a very controlling man – have a difference of opinion in how to handle things like discipline; and they each don’t like to compromise much. It takes time for them to get on the same page but Mary, of course, ends up helping them become a closer unit.
Luke Hawkins portrays Bert, a jack-of-all trades who has known Mary for quite some time. Mr. Hawkins and Ms. Leaming are a fantastic team having many performances together in The Sherman Brothers score (with additional songs, music, and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe). Indeed, their great chemistry makes them well received. A rousing round of applause abounds particularly for “Step in Time” and the classic “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.
Also highlights are the children, Katherine LaFountain and Chris Mckenna, who portray the mischievous but well-meaning Jane and Michael Banks. They are in many of the numbers and are impressively on point throughout the show. Additionally, Liz Pearce, another Broadway vet, is excellent as Mrs. Banks. One of her performances, “Being Mrs. Banks”, is heartbreaking telling about the difficulties of her marriage to an overbearing husband.
On the creative team, scenic designer Jason Simms admirably delivers. The moveable pieces and flying sequences are enhanced stunningly by Zach Blane‘s lighting and Laura Shubert’s splendid sound design. Additionally, devout fans will be very pleased with Kurt Alger’s costumes as they well adhere to the movie incarnation. There is also a remarkable orchestra headed up by Musical Director Michael Hopewell.
It is no surprise, really, that Mary Poppins is ideally achieved at the John W. Engeman Theatre. While some may have argued that the material is not “practically perfect”, my advice would be to see this production “spit spot” as a top notch cast and creative team – and an iconic story – make for a delightful night of theatre.
Mary Poppins is presented at the John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through January 1st, 2017. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.
Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film, Original Music & Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman, Additional songs, music, and lyrics by George Stiles& Anthony Drewe, Book by Julian Fellowes, Produced by Richard Dolce, Directed & Choreographed by Drew Humphrey (Engeman Theater: Thoroughly Modern Millie, A Chorus Line, et. al.), Musical Direction by Michael Hopewell (NYC: Once We Lived Here (U.S. Premiere), Billy Bishop Goes to War). Scenic Design by Jason Simms, Costume & Wig Design by Kurt Alger, Lighting design by Zach Blane, Sound Design by Laura Shubert, Casting by Gayle Seay and Scott Wojcik of Wojcik/Seay Casting, Props Design by Kristie Moschetta, Stage Management by Sean Francis Patrick
Starring Analisa Leaming (Broadway: The King and I, On the Twentieth Century), Luke Hawkins (Broadway: Xanadu, Cirque du Soleil, Banana Shpeel), Liz Pearce (Broadway: Billy Elliot; National Tours: Little Shop of Horrors, Jesus Christ Superstar, Seussical); David Schmittou (Engeman: A Christmas Story); Katherine LaFountain, Chris Mckenna, Matthew Baker, Charles Baran, Luca Bergin, Jane Blass, Chris Brand, Linda Cameron, Samantha Carroll, Dena DiGiacinto, Sophia Guarnaschelli, Alicia Hemann, Becky Grace Kalman, Sophia Kekllas, Oren Korenblum, Ben Russell-Lynch, Suzanne Mason, Meaghan Cinnes, Danny Meglio, Courtney Moran, Peter Surace, Bronwyn Tarboton, Moore Theobald, Michael Verre, and Jacqueline Winslow