One of the frothiest confections to ever drift across these parts has landed at Glyndon Area Players in the form of their offering this summer, “Mary Poppins.” A huge, sprawling, spectacle of a musical it might be just the thing to calm the frazzled nerves of this long, hot summer.
Based on the famous series of books written b P. L. Travers, the musical, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, premiered in movie houses in 1964. Forty years later it was made into a Broadway musical and shows no signs of slowing down now. The familiar tale of the magical nanny who is ‘practically perfect in every way’ was beautifully translated first from the books to the screen, and from there to the stage.
Go see the great, big, sprawling production by Glyndon Area Players. And don’t let the three hour plus running time scare you – it’s worth every minute of it.
Directed by Homero Bayarena, who is also the Founder and President of Glyndon Area Players, this production is not without some issues, but there are some truly wonderful aspects to it as well, enough to make the time visiting Mary, the Banks family, and the characters who inhabit that world well worth the trip. Bayarena has loaded the production with an awful lot of terrificness – at times a bit more than is absolutely necessary. The program alone runs more than 70 pages. The orchestra, led by Musical Director Sterling Gray, had some opening night jitters but overall performed well for much of the difficult score.
Mr. Bayarena is also listed as the set designer, along with Rose Mooney and Michael Parks. I don’t remember ever seeing so many set pieces in a local production. While each piece is beautifully built and serves the scenes well, there are just so many and so much that at times they threaten to overwhelm the action. This is a classic case of more is less, rather than the usual reverse. Still, the director and set designers deserves huge kudos for their vision and ability to actualize so many of them so well.
The technical aspects of the production were ably handled by Jim Shomo (lights), Charles Hirsch (sound), outstanding scenic artistic teams, great hair and costumes and what has to be one of the busiest stage managers in the world. One of the highlights on the production team side was the choreography by Cecelia, Lucy and Maia DeBaugh. Dance steps added a truly welcomed dimension to the show, complete with tap-dancing chimney sweeps, aerial shenanigans, ballet dancing statuary and coordinating the enormous cast in some extremely complicated movements. Well done!
Speaking of the cast, it is gigantic. As a former artistic director of a community theatre, I know exactly how much these companies want to be as inclusive as possible. Glyndon Area Players has loaded this “Mary Poppins” with a huge number of people and manages to maximize the space to accommodate them.
The ensemble really shines in the group numbers. Jolly Holliday, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and my personal favorite Step in Time are precise, well-rehearsed and enthusiastically performed.
In a cast this size, it’s not possible to single out every supporting character that made an impression, but I have to send a shout out to Casey Gomes as Robertson Ay, Joe Love as Neleus, John Orevec as The Policeman and particularly Lori True as Mrs. Corry.
The Banks family was suitably cast and lovingly portrayed. Cameron Casey as Mr. Banks was typically British, with the requisite stiff-upper lipped demeanor. Suzi Eldridges’ voice is wonderful, and she portrays the dotty Mrs. Banks lovingly. That gorgeous voice shines on Being Mrs. Banks. Sophie True and Ian Jones were terrific as the Banks children, both with good, strong voices and excellent pitch singing The Perfect Nanny.
“Mary Poppins” rises or falls on the strength of the two main characters, even in a company of this size. One of Bayarena’s most astute choices was the casting of Stephen Strosnider as Bert. This guy wins the British Accent Award of the Night. And that’s jus the beginning. He is utterly charming, does great physical comedy – both on the ground and the air – and is one of the best dancers I’ve seen on local stages in a while. A great voice and solid acting chops round out the package and every scene he is in is all the better for it. All Me Own Work, Chim Chim Cherie and Step In Time are all great showcases for this uber talent.
I have watched Katie Sheldon grow and mature over the past decade and a half from a winsome ingenue into a full-fledged leading lady. As Mary Poppins, she is self-possessed, poised, confident, and focused. With her lovely voice and clipped diction befitting a proper British nanny, Katie is every inch Mary – or is it the other way around? A talented dancer and consummate actress, she is so well suited to this part that it is no surprise she has done it before. She’s pretty much born to it. In the familiar tunes, such as Spoonful of Sugar, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Anything Can Happen she is Practically Perfect.
“Mary Poppins” is one of those musicals that will be around for generations. Go see the great, big, sprawling production by Glyndon Area Players. And don’t let the three hour plus running time scare you – it’s worth every minute of it.
Running Time: 3 hours 15 minutes with one intermission.
Mary Poppins runs until August 11, 2019 at 65 Sacred Heart Lane, Reisterstown, MD 21136. Click here for tickets.