Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Magical Mary Poppins

It's a jolly holiday at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater

Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theaters

Is there a more beloved actress than Julie Andrews?

Over the years, Andrews has been responsible for a plethora of iconic roles - who can forget fresh as the driven snow Maria von Trapp? Or the two faced Victor/Victoria? Or the Queen of Genovia?

But perhaps no role has been more defined by Andrews than that of Mary Poppins, which has yet to be re-imagined or even become one of Hollywood's ubiquitous film re-makes; it's that good.

So it's hard, then, for other actresses to be their own 'Mary's on stage, without constantly being compared to Dame Andrews herself. Thankfully for Chanhassen Dinner Theaters (CDT), it becomes quickly apparent that this won't be their problem in their new staging of Mary Poppins. Ann Michels is delightful in the title role, and has a magnificent voice (and the rosy cheeked spunk) that brings this iconic character to technicolored life.

Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theater
The rest of the cast is fun to watch as well. While this show doesn't have quite the ensemble heft of recent productions such as The Little Mermaid, it still brings the quintessential CDT joie de vivre, with innovative staging (company members as living statues, a movable bag from which Mary removes her furniture) and enthusiastic song. Standout pieces include a gorgeous rendition of "Feed the Birds" and a new-to-me piece called "Brimstone and Treacle," in which Mary faces off with Mr. Banks' evil nanny Miss Andrew.

Many CDT favorites are back for this production: Mark King brings his dancing shoes with him as the loveable Burt; Keith Rice lends his typical guff to Mr. Banks; Janet Trow is appropriately simpering as Winifred Banks; and Michelle Barber stands out as the Bird Woman on the street.
Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theater

Unfortunately, CDT simply doesn't have the facility to recreate some of the spectacular tricks in the Broadway production (which is a shame, because they have the talent to pull them off); that doesn't mean, however, that they haven't made up for it. There is a lot of magic to be found in this staging as long as you don't approach it with the hopes that it will be a carbon copy of other productions. As always, this Mary bears the classic CDT stamp of innovation and bonhomie, and it works.
Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theater

Mary Poppins will play at CDT through the summer (ending August 29, 2015), and there are some fantastic family deals to be had. For more information and to buy tickets, click on this link.