By Alison Tingley
The Erie Playhouse is currently presenting Disney’s and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins, directed and choreographed by Richard Davis. The production is a musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney Film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The original music and lyrics are by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The book is by Julian Fellowes. New songs and additional music and lyrics are by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The show ran on Broadway from 2006 to 2013. In 2007, the production won a Tony Award and was nominated for 6 others. It also won two Drama Desk awards the same year.
Mary Poppins is about a magical nanny who arrives at the Banks’ household in London to care for Jane and Michael, who are completely out of control. They go through nannies like a teenager goes through Clearasil. Their mother, Winifred, doesn’t know what to do. Their father, George, is a banker who wants precision and order at home. Mary Poppins has other ideas. She’s all about imagination and compassion. With the help of her friend Bert, a jack of all trades, Mary Poppins teaches the whole family some valuable lessons.
The Playhouse production stars Kate Neubert-Lechner as Mary Poppins and Charles Corritore as Bert. These two actors give a phenomenal performance. Neubert-Lechner has a beautiful voice. Corritore is a fabulous dancer, even when he’s dancing on the ceiling.
Audrey Ward and Ben Lariccia play Jane and Michael Banks. They’re bratty and, eventually, sweet. They both do a very good job of showing the transformation. Ward is especially impressive showing a lot of talent for singing and dancing as well as acting.
Steve Ropski and Christine Carmichael play George and Winifred Banks. Ropski takes his character from cold and unfeeling to father of the year rather effectively. Carmichael gives a fine performance as an overwhelmed mother and wife. She has a lovely voice which is showcased best in “Being Mrs. Banks.”
The entire cast does a great job with this show. Special mention should be given to Colleen L. Prittie, especially for her part as Miss Andrew. With smaller parts, Will Steadman, Brendan Daugherty, Rebecca Coleman, and Jerry Gill also give very nice performances. Gill had me almost laughing out loud as he tried to make sense of Mary Poppins’ entrance at the park. Another performer I feel should be mentioned specifically is Casey Corritore. As a member of the ensemble, she doesn’t exactly stand out, but she is a lot of fun to watch. Her moves are precise and you can tell she’s having a good time on the stage.
This production has a couple of show-stopping numbers. The well-deserved ovations for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (Can you believe there is actually no red underline under that word? Me either. I mean, Poppins has an underline for crying out loud.) and “Step and Time” went on for so long that I started to feel a little bad for the cast as they had to stand there posed and gasping for breath while waiting for the applause to end. Please do not read that as discouragement for applause. I applaud (ha) the audience’s display of appreciation.
The set and special effects are well done. The music, under the direction of Mike Miele, is performed very well. The costumes are wonderful. The direction and choreography is perfect.
The only tiny problem that I had with the show was that some of the accents were hit-or-miss. It wasn’t distracting, but I would have preferred that some actors skipped the accents all together.
Mary Poppins runs through January 5. The show is a lot of fun and has some astounding dance numbers. It’s well worth seeing, and it’s something to which you can take the entire family. For more information and tickets call the Erie Playhouse box office at 814-454-2852 or go online to www.erieplayhouse.org.