Mary Poppins @ Variety Theatre


As the days grow shorter and darker, we count
on Variety Theatre to brighten the autumn. Variety Theatre is an arm of Variety The Children’s
Charity that provides some children the treatment and special equipment they need in order to
live well in our world. Variety Theatre annually produces a musical
that magically and entertainingly combines theatre professionals with non-professionals,
many of them children, some of them children helped by Variety. The Children’s Charity. Broadway hoofer, Webster University professor,
and genius director Lara Teeter makes this combination work. This year, he’s waved his magic wand over
the musical Mary Poppins. A great mystery of the universe is how Teeter
keeps track of a stage overflowing with people young and old, experienced and inexperienced,
all singing and dancing to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and all looking experienced and very happy,
well supported by Dr. Marc Schapman and the orchestra. . Designer Dunsi Dai reveals a new corner
or vista of London ever and again. I notice the program gives special thanks
to the Webster University Advanced Scene Painting class. Well deserved. The actors playing the main characters uniformly
give them a solid reality. Erica Stephan combines in Mary Poppins unyielding
determination and gentle affection. In Drew Humphrey you have a Bert who not only
dances brilliantly but who brings the audience with him into the story. Michael James Reed makes George Banks’ transition
without turning him into two different characters. Heather Matthews makes wife Winifred the perfect
wife and mother without a touch of sentimentality, so convincing, with such lovely sounds emerging
from her. Taylor Gilbert and Gabe Cytron complete the
Banks family. Zoe Vander Har’s Mrs. Brill bears up under
kitchen disasters and others, supported by John Kinney’s butler. Whit Richert’s brilliant comic skills enrich
both Admiral Boom and the chairman of George Banks’ bank. And I wonder if Debby Lennon gets paid or
had to pay for the privilege of going totally against type as George’s horrible childhood
nanny. The roll goes on and on of terrific performers
in this cast. Take the kids of whatever age and go.

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