Review by J. A. Di Bello
FORESTBURGH, NY (July 31, 2014) – It could be the mountain air, the fanciful flight of the Catskill Mountain firefly or a simple recognition by theatre goers that the summer has reached its midpoint. The fireflies flicker with less enthusiasm, but the magic created by producer Franklin Trapp at The Forestburgh Playhouse and the production of “The Broadway Musical Marry Poppins” is a potent remedy, a pick-me-up, guaranteed to trample the skeptical, extinguish wavering whiffs of melancholia and boost the eager, rah-rah enthusiasm of Playhouse patrons.
Theatre goers at Tuesday’s opening night at the Playhouse were graciously greeted with a feisty and spirited performance of “Mary Poppins.” The production, in turn, was saluted by an appreciative standing ovation. Little can be said about this theatrical delight without calling attention to the skills and talents of Director and Choreographer Christian Saint-Girard and Co-Choreographer Chaz Wolcott, and their interpretation of P. L. Traver’s story-book character Mary Poppins, a supernatural, mystical British nanny. The staging, and scenic design by Germán Cárdenas-Alaminos, is amplified by Henry Lewers, the production’s Musical Director. They unite, as Mary Poppins is wont to say, “in a most delightful way.”
With a closed curtain, it’s Cárdenas-Alaminos’ scenic design that forewarns members of an anxious audience as they enter the playhouse. For occupying the center of that curtain is a dominating, projected silhouette of a singular, inflated umbrella, no doubt the very one that will carry in Mary Poppins to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London.
This much-loved children’s story demonstrates the potential devastation and havoc that may be rendered by home-grown terrorists. The terrorists in this case are the children of Mr. and Mrs. George Banks. Ryan Fogler is perfectly cast as Michael Banks their son, as he has that mischievous, wandering eye that signals deception, while Brooke Greening as the daughter, Jane Banks, effectively sports a smile and smirk that signals impending trickery. The siblings unite in frustration, as they cry for love and send nannies off to more sane environs and destroy the quality of life their parents, in this case George and Winifred Banks, deserve. The setting is London England, during the Edwardian period where the practices and concepts of the time guide their actions and reactions. It was customary for financially able Brits to employ domestics to care for children, clean house, prepare meals and promote the British version of “Domestic Tranquility”!
The character of Mr. George Banks is a complicated one, as an intelligent, educated man he is blind to the facts that surround him. Norman Duttweiler successfully returns to the stage at the Playhouse and with justified intensity brings to life the character’s perilous journey. Duttweiler’s acting and singing certainly reflect, in a most positive way, the recent narrowing of Norman’s role at Forestburgh. He now appears to be more acutely focused and in an advantageous position that allows him him to display the full extent of his main stage attributes. Bravo Norman!
Jenifer Evans as a veteran of the Forestburgh stage reveals her talent and knowledge of serious craftsmanship by effectively portraying of Winifred Banks the confused wife of George Banks and the desperate mother of the two urchins whose purpose becomes abundantly clear, as the story unravels.
And unravel it most assuredly does, as the West Wind hand delivers a savior to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane in the form of a magical, mystical nanny. Elizabeth Earley is a delightful, appealing Mary Poppins, the “Perfect Nanny” the children crave, a substitute parent who will “… Love us as a son and daughter.
And never smell of barley water.” She leads the children on a series of reform oriented, unorthodox adventures and when asked to explain, the magical nanny tersely replies, “ I never explain anything!”
Binding these characters and plot, while supplying the appropriate touch of dramatic irony is Zak Edwards, as Bert. His depiction of the light-footed, lucky sweep is presented with dazzling intensity. Serving as the resident Greek Chorus he bounds from roof top to the chimney’s edge. He’s a sweep, “… as lucky, as lucky can be.”
There are caricatures deliciously and judiciously spread through this production that gain the attention of the audience and serve to effectively promote the purpose and progress of the play. A noticeable portion of its humor and its fun are compacted into the role of Mrs. Corry, astutely delivered by Liane Zielinski. Her demonstrated ability to represent the mysterious proprietor of the Talking Shop, where conversations, letters and gingerbread are sold is a highlight of the Forestburgh production, as in “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious.” Further, and of note is Kyle Kemph who is impressing audiences this season with his acting ability and talented and creative vocal shenanigans. He stretches and reaches in vain to reach an elusive high C, as the audience cheers and applauds his quest. Look for both Kyle and Liane in the Cabaret, too!
The cast of “Mary Poppins” with a special nod to a radiant Ensemble is exemplary, demonstrating a passion for the finer points of musical theatre. The coordination singing, dancing with a clever and creative prop design work with coordinated precision to provide a family-friendly evening of professional theatre.
“Mary Poppins” will be playing at the Forestburgh Playhouse through Sunday, August 10. Tickets may be purchased at the Box Office or online: 845-794-1194; www.fbplayhouse.com.
Note also that on Saturday (07/30) evening special arrangements can be made to admit children (accompanied by an adult) without cost. Adult ticket must be purchased through the box office.
“Um diddle, diddle diddle, um diddle ay!” It’s a spoon full of magic.