Mary Poppins at SF Playhouse
“Mary Poppins” at SF Playhouse
A perfect family holiday outing, “Mary Poppins” at the SF Playhouse will please every member of the family and at every age.
Taken from the Disney movie that is still is a top hit, so much so that a sequel is coming out within weeks, this “Mary Poppins”, like all stage plays is much more immediate and engaging to the audience than a movie. Here with real live people playing the parts of imaginary characters in the comfortable SF Playhouse theater, you can get up close to the action thanks to its wide stage.
“Mary Poppins” at SF Playhouse is a story is about the Banks family who can’t seem to keep nannies because of the willful, rambunctious and often rude children, Jane (Grace Hutton) and Michael (Billy Hutton on the night I saw it). Both children sing, dance and act themselves into almost perfection.
The play starts with a scene on London’s’ rooftops with the chimney sweep Bert (Wiley Naman Strasser), an accomplished performer whom everyone, including the audience comes to love. In the Banks’ house one nanny (Sophia LaPaglia) is leaving in a huff and another arriving. The house is one of several scenes created by the talented set designer Nina Ball that describe the inside the house in the living room, the kitchen and kids room, outside on the street, in the park, on a set of stairs and on the rooftops, all depicted by the turn of the set in a masterfully and seamless manner while the cast carries, pushes and pulls bits of scenery on an off as they enter or exit.
When Mary Poppins (El Beh) magically arrives unannounced and fills the nanny position, she amuses the children with her tricks by pulling out of her purse large props Out come a pile of books, a large plant and other items that make her stay familiar and comfortable to her. The children are agape at these tricks. Mary is stern with them but they love her for her weirdness.
Besides the raising of the children, Mother and Father Banks have their own drama going. George Banks (Ryan Drummond) with a fine voice and Winifred (Abby Haug) whose singing and acting are also superb, are in a tangle. George, a banker, wants his family, especially his wife, to be socially acceptable. He demands that she hold a tea party for just the right people. You see, Mrs. Banks used to be an actress and this is not exactly the right profession for an English lady. The preparation for the party is one of the most amusing parts of the play. The cook, Mrs. Brill (Marie Shell), tries to perform her duties but to naught as the kids take over and create chaos. Mary Poppiins comes to the rescue and kitchen shelves are righted and the cake is saved.
Besides the kids misbehavior, other strains in the plot fester. The kids disappear and are found. A new nanny Miss Lark (Katrina Lauren McGraw) with a tremendous voice comes. She is disliked by al. She leaves when Mary releases her caged pet lark released into nature where it belongs. Mary is back for good.
There are jabs at fathers who are so into making money that they ignore their children until they finally take stock of what is important in life such as playing with them and flying kites..The entire English capitalist and social system is under surveillance in this play about a family who is saved by Mary Poppins. And yes Mary Poppins flies in this version proving that the live stage can be as exciting as the movies.
The famous music by Richard and Robert Sherman has won many Oscar’s and Grammy’s. Ata SF Playhouse a small off-stage orchestra directed by Katie Coleman plays a string of familiar songs including “A Spoonful of Sugar”, Chim Chim Cher-ee”, “Go Fly a Kite” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” plus others.
Susi Damilano’s direction is as always excellent. She is co-founder with Bill English of the successful SF Playhouse. Kimberly Richards choreography, Patrick Toebe’s lighting, Abra Berman’s costumes and Lynne Soffer’s dialect coaching make this a very entertaining professional performance.
“Mary Poppins” at SF Playhouse runs through January 12 and tickets are going fast. 415 677 9596.