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ACT’s ‘Mary Poppins’ wows audiences with vocals, dance scenes

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun; you find the fun and snap! The job’s a game…”  

Those are memorable lyrics of an iconic song from the beloved film and musical, “Mary Poppins.”  Mitchell Area Community Theatre has done the job and, with what appears to be a snap, provided our community with a place to find the fun and enjoy local theater at its finest.

“Mary Poppins,” adapted from the series of books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney film, features music and lyrics by the Sherman Brothers, with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and a script by Julian Fellowes.  

Directed by veteran Devin Carey, this show succeeds in transporting audience members to Edwardian England to visit the Banks family and their enchanting nanny, Mary Poppins — Travers selected that name because Mary has a tendency to pop in when needed.

Many of life’s lessons are taught during this production: children should have good manners; parents should remember to have fun with children; money has value; charity and empathy for others is always good; and, if you let it, “Anything Can Happen.” Mary brings order to chaos, responsibility to immaturity and celebration to drudgery.  

Amy Morrison is “Practically Perfect” Mary, warm and playful, but no-nonsense in taking charge of any situation. Jonathan Freeman is Bert, the charismatic chimney sweep, playing his first lead with note-perfect performances in show standards “Chim-Chim Cheree” and “Jolly Holiday.”  George (Kevin Carroll) and Winifred (Jessica Baas) Banks are harried parents of children Jane and Michael, delightfully depicted by Kate Ahlers and Jason Baas. Of special note are performances by Noel Ahlers (Mrs. Corry), Mariah Knight (Mrs. Brill) and Gary Thury (Robertson Ay).  

Carey has shepherded a cast of nearly forty through several major production numbers. The vocal talent on display here is, quite simply, extraordinary. During Saturday’s performance, I did not hear a bad note. The musical accompaniment is recorded, but the sound system was operating perfectly, including the microphones, something that ACT has struggled with in recent years.

I could go on at length about the song and dance scenes, but I would not be able to do justice to “Step in Time” or “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” Suffice it to say that the audience was nearly brought to its feet at the conclusion of several of these numbers.

Carey and crew have also worked theatrical magic with the set, lighting and with props. Despite innumerable set changes ranging from the London cityscape to a child’s nursery, from a fusty bank to the steps of St. Paul’s, this show is alive with color, movement, timing and heart.

Recently someone shared an article with me about the role of the reviewer for community theater. The article posited that the reviewer has a responsibility to critique honestly for actors and technicians to learn.

Here’s my honest assessment: this is one of the best musicals that Mitchell Area Community Theatre has staged. It truly is supercalifragi — you can take it from here!

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