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Walt Disney’s 1964 film Mary Poppins, which is based on the eponymous series of stories by P.L. Travers, has gotten quite a resurgence of prominence in the past few months. Recently there was the wonderful Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson film, Saving Mr. Banks, about the making of the Disney adaptation and presently we have the Beef and Boards production of the 2004 Broadway version of the stories.

Personally, I can recall dozens of viewings of the VHS copy of the movie we owned when my children were small. It had become engrained in my memory – the songs, the characters – especially Julie Andrew’s Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke’s Bert, the experiences that Mary, Bert and the children, Jane and Michael Banks, shared. It was all so magical and, well, practically perfect in it’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ness.

But, B&B’s delightful family presentation is different. Not that it isn’t “practically perfect” – it is! But we are taken on a bit of an altered journey in the Broadway version. There is no Uncle Albert, (Ed Wynn laughing his way to the ceiling in one of my favorite scenes) nor are there any dancing penguins. Disney purists will miss those exclusions, but we do have new elements from the original stories: a dancing statue which thrills the children, a Talking Shop where a very long word is discovered, the appearance of Mr. Bank’s terrifying old nanny Miss Andrew, and giant sized toys who want to be played with more carefully. And, I must say – all the “new” parts give the show a very nice original feel versus my deep-seated memories.

Cara Statham Serber returns to B&B as Mary Poppins

Cara Statham Serber returns to B&B as Mary Poppins

Directed by Eddie Curry, who also stars as Mr. Banks, with co-direction and choreography by Ron Morgan, the remarkable cast is a mix of familiar and new faces; and the show is chock-full of treats. It’s a treat to see Cara Statham Serber’s return to the B&B stage – we all remember her as Maria in last season’s The Sound of Music. She certainly is the perfect choice for Mary Poppins and her abilities sparkle in “Practically Perfect” and “A Spoonful of Sugar”.
It is also a treat to see Suzanne Stark fill her two roles – Mrs. Corry, the Talking Shop owner, and the intimidating nanny Miss Andrew. You may remember Ms. Stark’s beautiful voice as Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. Here she uses that same power and proficiency to illuminate her Miss Andrew (“The Holy Terror”) and to be the cause for quite a startling scene with the children.

It is a special treat to enjoy the vocal and acting skills of Heather Patterson King, who takes the role of Mrs. Banks. This production puts Mrs. Banks in a much more introspective light than the movie’s suffragette character was in. Ms. King’s beautiful voice and deep understanding of her character’s plight makes for a standout portrayal. We hope to see a lot more of Ms. King on the B&B stage.
Poppins Banks couple

It is a delightful treat to see two such talented young performers as Kennedy Martin and Logan Sejas take the roles of the Banks children, Jane and Michael. Ms. Martin, who was also in The Sound of Music as one of the Von Trapps, has a natural affinity for the stage. As Jane, her voice is full and sweet, and she has an easy dance style that will serve her quite well in her stage future. Young Mr. Sejas makes his first appearance on the B&B boards and does a formidable job with the feisty Michael. He too has been blessed with a remarkably well-formed vocal talent and he missed not a beat in his acting assignments. I predict he will reappear at this venue in the near future.

From left - Kennedy Martin as Jane Banks, Kelly Teal Goyette as Mrs. Brill, Logan Sejas as Michael Banks, Doug King as Robertson Ay, and Suzanne Stark as Miss Andrew in B&B's "Mary Poppins"

From left – Kennedy Martin as Jane Banks, Kelly Teal Goyette as Mrs. Brill, Logan Sejas as Michael Banks, Doug King as Robertson Ay, and Suzanne Stark as Miss Andrew in B&B’s “Mary Poppins”

Buddy Reeder as Bert in B&B's "Mary Poppins"

Buddy Reeder as Bert in B&B’s “Mary Poppins”

It is a treat to enjoy the onstage performance of Tri-West’s Buddy Reeder, the man who choreographed the recent B&B production, Cats. His portrayal of Bert, the multi-jobbed friend of Mary Poppins, was refreshingly original (especially set against the iconic Dick Van Dyke version that lives in my memory). Reeder’s song and dance talents are of the highest caliber and his easy-going performance style is very appealing.

It is always a treat to watch Eddie Curry play yet another character. He truly is one of my favorite local actors. His long career at B&B has been filled with a plethora of funny, clownish and even outrageous people. Conversely, his Mr. Banks, as worked into a central role in this Poppins adaptation, is a serious, troubled man, having problems dealing with his career at the bank, his children’s effervescent natures, his less than happy wife, and the endless parade of nannies that are hired to look after Jane and Michael including one Mary Poppins. Curry brings to bear an extremely good understanding of this very cheerless character through his actions and his songs. Yet, he never misses a single chance to get a laugh. I must say, I always learn something about acting from watching Mr. Curry.

The dance ensemble is featured in “Jolly Holiday” with Cara Statham Serber as Mary Poppins and Buddy Reeder as Bert

One of the most remarkable things about B&B’s supporting casts is that from top to bottom they are all first-rate performers. Kelly Teal Goyette and Doug King, playing the Banks household servants, Mrs. Brill and Robertson Ay, make extremely good choices in their roles. Plus, King doubles as the lively statue, Neleus. Jeff Stockberger uses his sharp comic skills as Admiral Boom and the Bank Chairman. Chelsea Leis shines in her “Feed the Birds” number as the Bird Woman. And a sensational cadre of dancer/actors: Kari Baker, Peter Scharbrough, Sally Scharbrough, Lauren Morgan, Timmy Hays, Colin Lee, Blake Patrick Spellacy, Michael Davis, and Sean Zia provide smaller roles and ensemble dance duties with aplomb. Indeed one of the highlights of the night for me was the full cast’s “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, a wildly choreographed number that stopped the show.

Music director Terry Woods leads the full sounding music ensemble. With the benefit of B&B regular Kristy Templet at the second keyboard, the combo of trumpet, woodwinds and percussion provide a fine accounting of the score, That’s a treat, as is Jill Kelly’s typically fantastic costume array.

And last of all – the final treat to mention is the buffet by Chef Odell Ward, this time featuring some kid friendly choices along with the usual delicious features. As I always say – the Beef and Board staff has put together a remarkable evening of food, entertainment and service. You really couldn’t ask for more.

Mary Poppins continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through June 29th. My understanding is that tickets are selling quickly, so if you intend to see this incredible family entertainment, I suggest you waste no time in calling the B&B box office at 317-872-9664. If you’d like more info about the show dates and time, you can get that at the box office or go online at http://www.beefandboards.com .

* Photos by Julie Curry provided by Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre