“Mary Poppins” opened last weekend at Camelot Theatre, and it is a delightful, magical show where a family’s love is the most important thing in the world and anything is possible if you only you let it.
The Banks children are badly behaved tyrants and their parents are at wit's end. It’s 1910 at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, and Mrs. Banks is trying hard to meet her banker husband’s expectations, negotiate class differences, manage a household and keep a nanny. The Banks family is a jumble of disorder and conflict, each pulling away from the other in anger and resentment.
Then Mary Poppins blows in on the East Wind, and the Bank’s household is turned topsy-turvy. She heals George Banks, played with a most intimidating ire by Jon Oles, and gives Winifred Banks, played by the very elegant and loving Kelly Jean Hammond, confidence. The children learn manners and find compassion. It takes Mary Poppins’ magical insight to reveal the strength and importance of family.
Camelot always puts on a top-notch performance, and “Mary Poppins” is one of their best. The play has a large cast with a lot of moving parts, and casting, costumes, set design and performance are all superb. The entire theater was their stage, and the audience never knew where an actor might enter or exit and what they might do along the way. It was fun to see the actors and costumes up close.
Stefani Potter is not practically perfect as Mary Poppins, she is absolutely perfect. With nicely fitted, tailored clothes, a fine remonstrative manner, heels that kick up her skirts and the magical valise, Potter is my memory of who Mary Poppins is. This Southern Oregon University theater student has learned her craft well and is a true professional with an amazing voice, perfect posture and, of course, that umbrella.
Ava Code plays Jane Banks, and Dean Cropper is Michael Banks. These two youths are beautifully gawky and the slightest bit clumsy to meet the requirements of their roles. They did so with such good will, charm and grace! I wonder if it was difficult for Ava and Dean to restrain themselves and deliberately act as children, when their acting skills are so well advanced.
There were so many endearing and memorable scenes, as when the park statues come alive or the chimney sweeps’ ensemble do a rooftop tap dance. I was glad to see the talented Rigo Jimenez cast as the chimney sweep Bert. Bert is an omniscient narrator, but it is Jimenez who keeps the scenes so intensely alive and personal. The colossal battle between Mary Poppins and Beatriz Abella as Miss Andrews was eye-popping. Abella’s version of the red-caped, red-faced, castor-oil wielding, evil nanny gets everything she deserves.
And the songs are unforgettable: “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
“Mary Poppins” is one of my personal childhood favorites. I read and reread my mother’s well-worn copy, the cover falling off and her name, Isabelle, written in a child’s scrawl on the endpaper. In 1964, we saw the movie at the drive-in, six kids in the back of the blue Plymouth station wagon and the folks in the front. Like Mary Poppins, my mother and father let me know that anything was possible. I had a big goofy smile on my face from start to finish of Camelot Theatre’s “Mary Poppins.”
“Mary Poppins” runs about two hours with a 15-minute intermission. The show runs through Dec. 31, at 101 Talent Ave., Talent. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 to $36 and can be purchased at camelottheatre.org or by calling 541-535-5250. The box office is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and one hour before performances.
— Maureen Flanagan Battistella is a freelance writer who lives in Ashland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org