Oshawa Little Theatre's "Mary Poppins" is Supercali. . . etc

OSHAWA LITTLE THEATRE, Dec. 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12
Evening performances at 8 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m.

DIRECTOR: Janet Gilliland
MUSIC DIRECTOR:  Blythe George

Reviewed by Joe Szekeres

What a treat for the upcoming Christmas season!   Give yourselves or a loved one an early Christmas present and get to the Oshawa Little Theatre to see this spectacular production of “Mary Poppins” now playing until December 12.   Tickets will surely go fast for the remaining performances.  Since most of us have either seen the Disney film version or read the book, I will save space on the details of the plot.  However, there are some moments in the stage musical that do not occur in the film.

From the first note of the overture, this production is a veritable feast for the eyes and ears.   Meticulous and loving attention to the most minute of details has been paid in every respect.   Huge credit must be given to Director Janet Gilliland, Producer Liz Pask and Musical Director Blythe George, for surrounding themselves with key people who have pulled off an incredible task in mounting this quality production that is one of the highlights of live theatrical entertainment in the Durham Region for 2015. 

Staging musicals of this clout and power requires patience and a great deal of stamina as pacing is of the utmost importance.  Without spoiling it for future audiences, Ms Gilliland employed a great deal of originality and creativity to keep set changes moving. Bravo to the Stage Managers, actors and crew who kept up the pace because it is at a lightning speed but so much fun to watch.  The suggestion of the set for the various locales works well on the OLT stage.  As you will see, we don’t need these elaborate Broadway recreations since the focus for this particular production is the story and the performances.

The Victorian costuming is gorgeous with its texture, layers and colours.  Huge kudos to Amy Lawrence, Joanne Wray and their team for spending hours in painstaking research to recreate the couture from this era.  The eyes are constantly scanning each character to see his or her costume and the character reflected within.

The performers in this non-professional production can hold their own with some of the Toronto based professional productions.  Trevor Coll as Bert, the chimney sweep and Nicole Strawbridge as Mary Poppins bring charm, grace, poise and control to the stage.  Combine these qualities along with their lovely vocals and their ‘practically perfect’ chemistry is beautiful to watch and to hear.  At this particular performance, Siobhan Kelly and Ryan Sutherland play Jane and Michael Banks, the two precocious, spoiled children who have driven so many nannies out of their home that their frustrated parents Winnifred (Erin Collins) and George (Michael Schneider) are at their wits’ end since they are dealing with other issues.  The ensemble is a strong cohesive group of local veteran actors and dancers who complement each other in so many ways.   I’m probably certain they wanted to work in this play because the story touches each of us in so many ways.

The impressive and stunning musical numbers of “Step In Time” and “SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS” resulted in thunderous applause from the audience.  And yet there are some touching and tender moments as well with Sarah Rule as the Bird Woman in “Feed the Birds” and “Anything Can Happen”, one of Mary Poppins’ rules by which we can live our lives.

For a lot of us old timers, make sure you bring your Kleenex to a performance.  “Mary Poppins” along with “The Wizard of Oz” are two stories that always bring tears to my eyes each time I see them because, for at least two hours, we are all children again.  Grab at ticket to see “Mary Poppins” before it closes.