Mary Poppins entertains…in the most delightful way!
By Jonathan Fox
August 4, 2014 —
Half-way through the season, the folks at the Forestburgh Playhouse (FBP) have a smash hit on their hands in the form of the beloved Disney classic “Mary Poppins.” The musical stage adaptation began its journey to Broadway as far back as 1993, and when it finally opened in New York City it garnered six 2007 Tony Award nominations, ultimately winning a statuette for Bob Crowley’s amazing scenic design. While the FBP may not have Broadway’s millions to spend on its productions, this show glitters magically throughout and is sure to please both kids and adults, as Mary Poppins has something for everyone. Many hands went into the presentation on the Great White Way, overseen by legendary producer Cameron Mackintosh, and with so many details to accomplish; it’s easy to see why. FBP producer Frankin Trapp is at the top of his game with Poppins, having brought so many talented people on board to ensure that his version would be considered yet another “Miracle in the Forest.”
Customarily, I don’t approve of individuals wearing multiple hats for any given show, but director/choreographer Christian Saint-Girard has proven me wrong this time out, as his skills in both fields are exemplary. Granted, his cast is beyond terrific, but in less capable hands might not have risen to the challenge. Girard’s direction is flawless and the numerous dance numbers are so fantastic that I did not want them to end. Ably assisted by Chaz Wolcott, Saint-Girard has managed to create the illusion of hundreds of performers filling the stage and has achieved the coveted theatrical triple-crown, earning five stars for acting, singing and dancing. Honestly, this musical confection is an all-‘round winner, as musical director Henry Lewers brings out the very best in the cast and Michael O’Connor’s lighting design, Dave Sanford’s sound and Ashleigh Poteat’s lush costuming enhance the overall production, elevating it to one of the best I’ve seen at the playhouse in years. The original Broadway set was a character in its own right, therefore scenic designer German Cardenas-Alaminos had his work cut out for him in Forestburgh, but there are many clever components incorporated in this version and some truly delightful effects to behold.
With so many outstanding performances, it would be difficult to highlight them all, but suffice it to say that led by the enchanting Elizabeth Early (Mary Poppins) and the amazing Zak Edwards (Bert), the rest of the cast was astounding. Early and Edwards are practically perfect and managed to erase any lingering thoughts of the feature film’s stars, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, as their incredibly entertaining portrayals stand on their own. So too, are the children, played by Ryan Fogler and Brooke Greening. These roles in the story are key to the tale, and the kids are simply marvelous, singing and dancing their way into the hearts of the audience. Both of these young performers have their moments to shine, and they do so repeatedly, tugging at our emotions along the way. Their mother, portrayed by the stunning Jennifer Evans, is a force to be reckoned with, as her beautiful voice and entrancing turn as Winifred, the loving wife of beleaguered husband George (Norman Duttweiler), enhances the show every time she glides onto the stage. Duttweiler’s turn as George is a comic tour de force, and the audience roared in approval upon seeing him appear. As outgoing FBP producer, Duttweiler is no stranger to the playhouse, and it was truly a delight to see him perform in the show, which he did with style, panache, and charm.
Mary Poppins is riddled with fun characters, including Robertson Ay and Mrs. Brill, played with exuberant gusto by Kyle Kemph and Dawn Trautman, respectively. Both actors embrace their roles with such energy that one can’t help but notice, and they too, elevate this production to a level that exemplifies entertainment. The chorus of boys and girls were clearly up to the challenge, since again, the choreography in Mary Poppins is really swell and the kids do a bang-up job, undoubtedly making Trapp and Saint-Girard proud as they tackle tap, ballet and jazz with aplomb.
One does not need a “spoonful of sugar” to make this medicine go down. In fact, Mary Poppins is a tonic for what ails you. This production literally soars above the cobbled streets of Victorian England, and I defy you not to be entranced by the magical “Jolly Holiday” that awaits, just beyond the entrance to the Forestburgh Playhouse. For reservations and information, call 845/794-1194 or visit www.FBPlayhouse.org.