Entering Shea's to see "Mary Poppins" was a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious experience. As people of all ages eagerly waited for the musical to begin, Bruce W. Woody, the house organist, serenaded the audience.
"Mary Poppins" is about the Banks family, their unstable family life and their quest for the perfect nanny. Mr. Banks, who works in a bank, is aloof and demeaning to his wife and servants, and tries to have as little to do with his children as possible. He prohibits Mrs. Banks from returning to her acting career and seeing her old friends, and insists that the children, Jane and Michael, are raised by a nanny. When Mary Poppins comes to be the new nanny, the family grows closer, and the children and their parents learn life lessons.
One of the highlights of any musical is the live pit orchestra, hidden underneath the stage, that performs the overtures and accompanying music throughout the show. The pit was magnificent, with impressive balance and tonality throughout the performance. The music in "Mary Poppins" combines songs from the original Disney movie with newer songs that accentuated themes from the original novel by P.L. Travers. I especially enjoyed hearing the trumpet, French horn and percussion parts throughout the show.
The cast of "Mary Poppins" was enthralling. Caroline Sheen expertly executes the role of Mary Poppins. Her "practically perfect" personality was clear through original songs such as "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Jolly Holiday," as well as newer songs such as "Practically Perfect" and "Anything Can Happen."
Nicolas Dromard in the role of Bert, a jack-of-all-trades friend of Mary Poppins, is truly a joy. He takes on the role of narrator, and is entrancing as he dances with his other chimney sweep friends in the catchy number, "Step in Time." Dromard walks up the walls of the stage and tap dances on the ceiling! The children (Talon Ackerman and Cade Canon Ball in alternating performances as Michael Banks, Camille Mancuso and Paige Simunovich in alternating performances as Jane Banks) have much bigger parts than most of the adult cast, and they are superb. Laird Mackintosh as Mr. Banks and Blythe Wilson as Mrs. Banks are believable and sympathetic. The servants, Rachel Izen and Dennis Moench, provide much humor. The rest of the cast has abundant energy, especially when they dance the marvelous routines.
The sets and special effects in the musical are amazing. The Banks' house is like a pop-up book come to life. It has two stories and it opens and closes as Bert narrates.There are some sets that incorporate animation, such as during the "Jolly Holiday" scene when Bert "paints" the set from its dull gray to bright colors.
Although the show was originally made for younger children, there are definitely some darker elements in this musical. In one scene, when Mary Poppins is trying to teach Jane and Michael to take care of their toys, she enchants the toys and makes them come to life. This may frighten small children as clowns and dolls dance around Jane and Michael. During this scene, Jane and Michael beg Mary Poppins to make the toys stop, but she does not. In another scene, Mary Poppins uses some darker magic to trap an evil nanny in a cage and makes her vanish in a lot of smoke. Although these scenes incorporate segments from the novel, it is jarring to see a stricter, almost wicked side of Mary Poppins. These scenes are more similar to "Nanny McPhee" than to the Julie Andrews version of "Mary Poppins."
Overall though, the show is spectacular, with its amazing music, cast and sets. "Mary Poppins" transports the audience to the life of the Banks family and its dependence on Mary Poppins. By the time Mary Poppins leaves, in a stunning way, the family realizes that family comes first. As Jane said, "We don't need her anymore, and other families will."
The magic of Mary Poppins stayed with me long after the curtain fell.
"Mary Poppins" continues at Shea's Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St., through Oct. 31. Call 847-1410 or visit www.sheas.org for more information.
Emily DeRoo is a sophomore at Williamsville North High School.