Village Tattler Review: Anything Can Happen at the Magical Mary Poppins at Engeman Theater

Village Tattler

December 12, 2016

Claudia D. Wheeler

 

A magical show the whole family can enjoy awaits you at The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport this holiday season. Based on the classic Disney film, Engeman brings the story of the mysterious nanny to life on the stage. Mary Poppins will follow the following performance schedule from now through Saturday, December 31, 2016: Thursdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 8:00pm, Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm. Some Wednesdays and Sunday evening are available.

Directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey (Engeman Theater: Thoroughlly Modern Millie, A Chorus Line, White Christmas), the cast of this magnificent production features Analisa Leaming as Mary Poppins (Broadway: The Kind and I, On the Twentieth Century). Leaming beams with just the right touch and attitude in the most delightful way. She brings the character of Poppins to life with a wonderful presence and rich, melodious vocals and makes you believe in the magic as she flies effortlessly across the stage on several occasions. Leaming alone is worth seeing the show for, and bringing the kids to see, but she is also accompanied by a talented cast: Luke Hawkins plays Bert (Broadway: Xanadu, Cirque du Soleil, and Banana Shpeel); Liz Pearce as Winifred Banks (Broadway: Billy Elliot and National Tours of Little Shop of Horrors, Jesus Christ Superstar, Seussical), as well as David Schmittou as George Banks, who delighted audiences as the narrator in A Christmas Story at Engeman in 2014.

This amazing cast also includes: Katherine Lafountain as Jane Banks and Chris Mckenna as Michael Banks, as well as 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 Mcinnes, Danny Meglio, Courtney Moran, Peter Surace, Bronwyn Tarboton, Moore Theobald, Michael Verre, and Jacqueline Winslow.

We are entertained throughout the show by the magical Mary Poppins who shows up to care for Jane and Michael Banks and brings everyone on adventures with chimney sweeps, shopkeepers, and other characters. The dances are well choreographed numbers performed by skillful performers (many having performed on Broadway and Off Broadway). We remember all the catchy songs from the movie, which will get stuck in your head again for days: “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” “Step in Time,”  “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Jolly Holiday,” and  “Anything Can Happen.”

The Creative team features  Jason Simms (Scenic Design), Kurt Alger (Costume And Wig Design), Zach Blane (Lighting Design), Laura Shubert (Sound Design),Gayle Seay And Scott Wojcik Of Wojcik/Seay Casting (Casting Directors), Kristie Moschetta (Props Design), and Sean Francis Patrick (Production Stage Manager).

Mary Poppins is produced by Richard Dolce, the theater’s Producing Artistic Director and musically directed by Michael Hopewell (NYC: Once We Lived Here, Billy Bishop Goes to War, and Rent).

Tickets are $76.00 on Saturday evenings, and $71 all other performances and may be purchased by calling (631) 261-2900, by visiting the Engeman Theater Box Office at 250 Main Street, Northport or visit www.EngemanTheater.com to purchase tickets or see a complete show schedule and what is up next at Long Island’s only year-round professional theater company.

 

Read online: www.villagetattler.com/anything-can-happen-magical-mary-poppins-northports-engeman-theater

Long Island Press Review: Mary Poppins: Holiday Extravaganza Opens at Engeman Theater

Long Island Press

December 2, 2016

Elise Pearlman

 

A holiday show is a genre all its own. It should tug on heartstrings and make the audiences smile, yet have music and glitz that fires up the imagination. The musical Mary Poppins, which recently opened at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, delivers all this and more.

Those looking to create lasting holiday memories with their families should partake of this show, which is truly an extravaganza. Theatergoers cannot ask for more in terms of engaging, family-friendly holiday entertainment.

The show is set in Edwardian London of the early 1900s. Something is sadly amiss at the home located at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Members of the well-to-do Banks family are at odds with each other.

George Banks, the patriarch, is a stern, hands-off father, who espouses the philosophy that children should be seen and not heard. Having been raised by a nanny himself, George seeks an employee who will infuse his offspring, Jane and Michael, with “precision and order.” The children act out by tormenting the nannies with pranks and shenanigans until they quit.

All is not quiet on the marital front either. George is very concerned with status and insists that wife, Winifred, focus on getting into the right social circle even though it makes her uncomfortable.

Having lost their sixth nanny, George is set to advertise for a replacement. But Jane and Michael have a wish list of their own: a nanny who would play games with them, read stories and simply bring childhood wonder back into their lives.

In short order, Mary Poppins mysteriously appears on their doorstep. Mary immediately takes control, extoling her virtues as the quintessential nanny in the delightful song, “Practically Perfect.” She also astounds the children by taking all manner of things—including a hat rack—out of her carpet bag.

The story of Mary Poppins—the inspiration for the memorable Walt Disney movie—was originally part of a series of books written by P.L. Travers. The author, who did not have a very happy childhood, spun the idealistic tale of a nanny with magical powers to entertain her siblings. She based the Poppins character on an aunt who also possessed a seemingly bottomless carpet bag.

Jane and Michael often judge people by their appearances and Mary teaches them to look beneath the surface. While at first they see Bert, the happy-go-lucky chimney sweep as dirty, they find out that Bert, who will be part of many adventures, is very likeable, full of fun, and he and Mary are old friends.

Similarly, when they run into the Bird Woman, who ekes out a meager living selling bags of food for the pigeons in the park, they see her as simply a bundle of rags. As the old woman (Suzanne Mason) and Mary render their heart-rendering duet, “Feed the Birds,” the children realize that the Bird Woman is really a kindly soul who has devoted her life to bringing nourishment to the tiny winged creatures.

Stunning musical showstoppers abound. One of my favorites is the astoundingly enthusiastic “Jolly Holiday,” in which Mary, Bert and the children are joined by the entire ensemble and wow the audience with song and dance. The colorful costumes are a visual delight. This number elicited spontaneous applause.

An extremely humorous bit of slapstick occurs when Mrs. Brill, the cook (Linda Cameron) gives Robertson Ay (Danny Meglio) some simple instructions to carry out in preparation for Mrs. Banks’ socialite tea party and things go hilariously awry. The mishap is followed by the crowd-pleasing tune, “A Spoonful of Sugar.”

As an investment banker, George is not so commanding and self-assured as he is at home. Act I leaves the audience with two cliffhangers. George makes a decision to fund one of two business ventures and time will tell if he made the right choice. Then, unexpectedly, Mary leaves in order to see how the family fares without her input. As she soars above the silhouetted rooftops of London, the audience is left to wonder if the Banks family will ever learn to function as a family without her help.

Directed and choreographed with great finesse and attention to detail by Drew Humphrey, Mary Poppins delights on every level. Analisa Leaming, who boasts a plethora of impressive Broadway credits, is the ideal Mary. From her very first song, “Practically Perfect,” the audience will be wowed by her melodic voice which borders on the operatic. She is a sight to behold in Kurt Alger’s spot-on period costumes. Expect to be smitten.

Luke Hawkins, who plays Bert, has appeared in Xanadu and Cirque de Soleil on Broadway. His amiability makes him the perfect sidekick for Mary. He will tap dance his way into your heart in numbers like the showstopper, “Step in Time.”

Katherine LaFountain (Jane) and Christopher McKenna (Michael) are no newcomers to the Engeman stage. They both have incredible stage presence and can sing and dance with the best of them.

George and Winifred are played by David Schmittou and Liz Pearce, respectively. Although Mary Poppins appears on the scene to correct the damage caused to the children by these wayward parents, the fact that the parents eventually win the audience’s sympathy is a credit to their fine acting.

Major kudos to Kurt Alger for his outstanding costume and hair design, which are truly an eye-catching salute to the elegant finery of the early 1900s. Jason Simms’ scenic design, showcasing the landmark London clock tower, combined with Zach Blane’s lighting, makes for dramatic silhouetted nightscapes. The six piece band directed by Michael Hopewell does full justice to the music.

Mary Poppins runs through Dec. 31. Tickets can be purchased at the theater’s box office, 250 Main St, Northport, by calling 261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: www.longislandpress.com/2016/12/02/mary-poppins-holiday-extravaganza-opens-at-engeman-theater/

Long Islander Review: ‘Mary Poppins’ Rings In Holiday Season

The Long Islander

December 1, 2016

Janee Law

 

The stage of the John W. Engeman Theater is bringing an energetic performance to Northport Village this holiday season with the timeless and magical tale of “Mary Poppins.”

“I thought it was fantastic,” audience member Marianne Esolen, of Huntington, said after Saturday’s performance. “It was wonderfully uplifting and positive. It was a lovely night for families and a perfect pick for the holidays.”

Based on the classic children’s book series and Disney film, Engeman’s production of “Mary Poppins” is directed and choreographed by Drew Humphrey and musically directed by Michael Hopewell.

The cast features Analisa Leaming as Mary Poppins; Luke Hawkins as Bert; Liz Pearce as Winifred Banks; David Schmittou as George Banks; Katherine LaFountain as Jane Banks and Chris McKenna as Michael Banks.

There are unforgettable dance numbers and fan favorite songs like Academy Award-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” but the most entertaining number of the night was “Step in Time,” which demonstrated synchronized tap dancing and high energy performances that had the audience clapping along with the beat.

The cast delivered perfect European accents and demonstrated mannerisms of that of their characters from the film. For instance, Hawkins reflected Dick Van Dyke with his carefree performance of Bert, while Leaming reflected Julie Andrews with her operetta voice and feet pointing outward in her performance as Mary Poppins.

LaFountain and McKenna, who play the curious and sometimes mischievous children, both said their favorite scene to perform was “Step in Time.”

“I love the tap dancing and the energy is so great in it,” LaFountain said. “Kids our age usually don’t get to do stuff like this so it was really an honor to do it. I loved it.”

McKenna said he loved the opportunity to play Michael Banks, a “fun role.”

Esolen and Anne Paley, both of East Meadow, said “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Step in Time,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “Anything Can happen” were their favorite performances of the night.

“I always prefer seeing things live,” Esolen said. “The film is amazing, but to see it performed in our own local community and to hear all the enthusiasm and all the laughter in the audience is better than any film could be.”

Show times for “Mary Poppins” at John W. Engeman Theater (250 Main St., Northport) are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. The last performance is Dec. 31, with some Wednesday and Sunday evening tickets available. Tickets are $71-$76, and can be purchased at the box office, or at Engemantheater.com.

 

Read online: www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/mary-poppins-rings-in-holiday-season

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