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Mary Poppins wows audience in Venice

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Mary Poppins by Bianca Benedi

Costume changes were quick and seamless, with a flexible ensemble.

 

She is famous for being practically perfect in every way, and the Venice Theatre production of her story is not far off. Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins,” on stage from Feb. 17 to March 15, is a well-rehearsed musical romp that closely follows the original musical with a handful of new songs and numbers to spice up this classic story.

This is not the Disney movie brought to life, but the story will still be familiar to any child who grew up watching Julie Andrews in the 1964 film. This production stars Renee Cordonnier (and on a few select performances, Jessica Tasetano), a powerful soprano with a charming smile. Although most of the actors can carry their own voices, some fall a bit flat – Douglas Landin as George Banks sounds a bit like a child trying to imitate his father and never really comes off as an intimidating man for his children, nor does his voice ever carry through his demands for order and fastidiousness.

However, Jane and Michael Banks are perfectly charming children, the latter a clever snarky child while Jane’s voice is perfectly sweet (if her character is not necessarily so kind at first).

The ensemble cast is clearly not professional – many dance sequences feature a cast of dancers out of tune with each other, with varying degrees of dancing ability. However, given that the production is based entirely on volunteer work, the show remains impressive, and several of the dancers are able to carry the sequences through. Their singing is better than their dancing, at any rate. And a few impressive dancing sequences – including a scene where Bert the chimney sweeper dances onto the ceiling – drew huge applause from the audience.

The costuming for the show is also quite a sight – the bright colors, flowing dresses and neon makeup featured in the song “Supercalifragilisticexpealadocious” are a high point in the musical.

Much of the magic of the show comes from the stage backgrounds, which are elaborate, beautiful, seamless and overwhelmingly glittery. The transition from scene to scene is made easy with sets being taken off stage even as characters speak, layers of background rising up and down from the rooftops and some clever lightwork to set the mood.

The play ends with Mary Poppins flying away with her iconic umbrella (she is indeed actually lifted in the air) as the cast sings a reprise of “A Spoonful of Sugar.” It certainly is sweet.

Venice Theatre offers discounted tickets for college students ($15); information about purchasing tickets and future shows can be found at venicestage.com

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