CEDAR CITY — From the moment I entered Randall L. Jones Theatre, the beautiful set transported me into the world of the show as the curtains lay open to reveal chimneys and lights and a changing background of stars and moonscapes. This wonderful set included several multi-functional changing pieces and complemented the scene work in the production very well.
Mary Poppins tells the story of a nanny who is windswept into the Banks’ home, setting things right and teaching them to handle the winds of their own lives. With music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, and book by Julian Fellowes, the musical is based on the book by P. L. Travers and the Disney movie of the same name.
The show was very well performed and produced, and there are several scenes that anyone attending is sure to enjoy. One of my favorites was the first act number “Precision and Order”
which that takes place inside the bank where Mr. Banks works. This wonderful piece was well rehearsed and accompanied by complicated and intricate choreography. The work done by choreographer Lenny Daniel in this and other scenes was amazing to experience. Other scenes to be mentioned include “Jolly Holiday” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” where the choreography by Daniels and the costuming by Brenda Van der Wiel were a combined treat for the eyes and ears. And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the cast’s stylistic talent in “Step in Time.”
Jane and Michael Banks were played by Mila Belle Howells and Andrew Barrick, respectively. Both of these young actors played their roles superbly. Both actors handled sudden mishaps well and were professional in their onstage manner. Still, the chemistry between the two was pleasant but sometimes felt forced. There were some moments during the show where one or the other would distract from the main focus by acting out a little when not in focus, but the situations were seldom and scattered. The overall performance was great.
Mr. and Mrs. George (Chris Mixon) and Winifred (Susanna Florence) Banks made a handsome couple and paired well together in degree of talent. The relationship between the two followed the script well, and both had fully developed individual characterization that was dedicated and entertaining. The interactions between Winifred and Mary Poppins were a particular delight, as Mrs. Banks was always caught off guard and acted turned-around during the exchanges.
Robertson Ay and Mrs. Brill, played by Jim Poulos and Peggy O’Connell, were a fun-loving slapstick duo and fun to watch. Bree Murphy deserves praise for her role as Mrs. Andrew, who had a strong and lovely tone to her voice and was so completely intimidating that I found myself shivering in my seat several times from the sheer terror she exuded.
Eddie Lopez easily lived up to the wonderful role of Bert. His performance as the wandering tradesman and the essential story-teller of the show was both hilarious and sincere. The costuming complemented his performance well, making him seem the humble wanderer whose nature implied much more wisdom and knowledge than his looks let on. Lopez’s well-timed humor added the perfect touch of charm intrinsic in Bert’s character.
Our leading lady, Mary Poppins was played by the lovely and talented Elizabeth Broadhurst. From the first moments on the stage, Broadhurst commanded attention at any point when the focus was hers to take. Her clear and beautiful voice combined with the amazing orchestra to lift each other into a wonderful adaptation of the Disney classics we all know and love. Broadhurst’s straight-forward sense of humor enhanced the business-like nature of the character Mary Poppins. In the songs “Spoonful of Sugar” and “Brimstone and Treacle,” the power that Mary had over others seemed to go beyond a mere influence or suggestion, but traveled into the realm of witchcraft or magic. Whether through Karen Azenberg‘s directorial choice or Broadhurst’s acting, these moments brought a new spin on Mary Poppins as a character.
The Utah Shakespeare Festival has put together a production of that is simultaneously entertaining and extravagant. This show was a success on all counts, and was a joy to watch.