P.L. Travers’s Mary Poppins series (1934-1988) formed the foundation for the film Mary Poppins (1964) which preceded the play of the same name 40 years later.
By that time, Mrs. Winfred Banks had evolved from a stereotypical suffragette to a former actress and Mr. George Banks had developed a past where he was traumatized by his sadistic nanny, Miss Andrew.
Any production of Mary Poppins rises and falls with the title character and CenterStage’s presentation is no exception.
Melissa Shepherd’s performance captures the ephemeral personality of nanny Mary Poppins and does justice to the classic songs “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Her co-conspirator Bert – chimney sweep, screever and jack-of-all-trades – played by Pete Lay, sings and dances in fine style, especially in “Step in Time.”
The Banks children, Michael, played by Finnegan Broyles, and Jane, played by Ruthie Belza are not just “children.” They are actors and singers and hold their own with the adults.
Kristy Calman, as the sadistic Miss Andrew, chews up the scenery and provides a stark contrast to Mary Poppins in the scene “Brimstone and Treacle Revisited.” In the end, Miss Andrew is banished, George gets his job back in the bank with a promotion, Mr. and Mrs. Banks are in harmony again as in the early days of their marriage and the children have evolved from spoiled brats to caring individuals.
In addition, loyal CenterStage fans got a treat on opening night when they saw the director, John Leffert, appear as the formidable Admiral Boom.
And Mary Poppins? Like the Lone Ranger, her job is done and she leaves to find another family who needs a “spoonful of sugar.”
The final musical for this CenterStage season is Sondheim on Sondheim, which will run from May 11-21. Tickets can be purchased online at www.centerstagejcc.org.