Review: "Mary Poppins" at Curtain Call

Chris Peterson

To kick off their 25th season, Curtain Call in Stamford, CT has opened with a behemoth of a show, Disney & Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins. Led by an extremely talented and deep cast, this production truly soars despite its technical and design flaws. 

For those of you who have seen the Disney movie classic, you know the basic story of the nanny who came and theoretically saved the Banks family. And while this production features many of the songs you know and love, the story is more based on the book itself, which we all know the film, famously, deviated from quite much. So don't go in expecting to see dancing penguins and floating to the ceiling with Uncle Albert, they're not there. 

And while the show is much different from the movie, it still retains its charm and spectacle and ability to delight all ages, as evident from the reactions of the children sitting around me. 

The cast here is great and each fills their roles with plenty of energy and personality. In the title role, Sarah Giggar, is everything you would hope for. She is warm, guiding and stern when need be. Moments such as "Brimstone & Treacle" and the particularly surprisingly creepy "Playing the Game", Ms. Giggar shines. Her vocals are spot on as well, showing considerable range and skill in not only the iconic Disney tunes but also the new ones such as "Practically Perfect". 

Sara Giggar and Larry Gabard as Mary Poppins and Burt, the chimney sweep. Photo: Curtain Call

Sara Giggar and Larry Gabard as Mary Poppins and Burt, the chimney sweep. Photo: Curtain Call

Larry Gabbard, as Bert, is another reason to see the show as well. Combining both considerable charm and talent, Mr. Gabbard serves as a narrator of sorts, setting each scene with reprises of "Chim Chim Cheree". Mr. Gabbard also deserves extra recognition for his athletic performance given the fact he was injured mid show, just a couple of days earlier. 

William Trebing (even somewhat resembling David Tomlinson) and Lisa Schacher both give strong performances as Mr. & Mrs. Banks as both parts are more fleshed out for the stage musical, and the second act story line primarily revolves around them. Katie Morris and Javier Gonzalez (Natalie Steele and Jonah Frimmer perform on alternating dates) made for a wonderful child-star pair as Jane and Michael Banks. 

This production is also benefited from a strong ensemble cast as well, with Kevin Sell and Natasha Fenster as Robertson and Mrs. Brill. Eric Hu gives one of the best performances I've seen him in as Neleus and Gail Yudain is equally brilliant in her roles as the Bird Woman and the terrifying Miss Andrew. 

The rest of the company features considerable talent with each person giving their complete effort in their various roles, which is a joy to see in any production. Music Director Greg Chrzczon, once again provides excellent conducting as well.  

Mary Poppins is a technically heavy show, that's unmistakable. However the performance this writer saw(Show #3), was hindered with technical glitch after technical glitch. Continuous microphone issues, lighting problems and set effects not working, would often become an overwhelming distraction in various scenes. 

Costume designer Megan Latte Ormond nails the iconic costumes of the more notable characters however makes some questionable choices in the conventional clothing(the Bank Chairman's suit looked more fitting for the 1980's than the early 1900's). The set design also lacked the vision and panache usually seen from designer Peter Barbieri Jr. 

Sarah Giggar as Mary Poppins, Javier Gonzalez as Michael Banks, and Gail Yudain as The Birdwoman. Photo: Curtain Call

Sarah Giggar as Mary Poppins, Javier Gonzalez as Michael Banks, and Gail Yudain as The Birdwoman. Photo: Curtain Call

The choreography, from Kari Sweeney Efferen, was for the most part lively, resembling  the London and Broadway productions. For his part, director Ben Frimmer helms the production well, however changes in the way characters interact with one another and the timing of set changes("Feed the Birds" shouldn't be sung over the sounds of a set being assembled), would serve this production very well. 

Thankfully this production is aided by a long run, so there I expect many of these issues will be ironed out by the time it closes on Oct 17th. 

Technical and design issues aside, Curtain Call's Mary Poppins is family friendly fun as evidenced by the legion of children who were waiting outside the theater to meet "Mary Poppins" after the show. 

Mary Poppins will play September 11 through October 17, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm as well as Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:00pm. There are also two Thursday evening performances at 7:30pm on October 8 and 15. Regular prices are $32 for adults, $24 for senior citizens and $16 for students and children. Thrifty Thursday pricing – all seats $22. Box Office: 203-461-6358 or online at www.curtaincallinc.com. Discounted FLEX PASS SUBSCRIPTIONS are on sale now and offer savings of more than 25% off regular adult prices.

Curtain Call is the award-winning, non-profit community-based theatre company in residence at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue in Stamford. Year-round productions are presented by and for area residents in The Kweskin Theatre and The Dressing Room Theatre. After-school, evening and weekend educational workshops in the performing arts are also offered year-round for ages five through adult. Curtain Call’s fall session of acting classes and other performing arts curriculum for all ages will begin in late September. A full listing of what’s offered and the teaching artists on staff are available at www.curtaincallinc.com. 

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