Review: “Mary Poppins” (NightBlue Performing Arts Company)

Sage Harper, Ryan Dooley, and Liam Dahlborn/Photo: Emily Schwartz
Sage Harper, Ryan Dooley, and Liam Dahlborn/Photo: Emily Schwartz

Show: Mary Poppins

Company: NightBlue Performing Arts Company

Venue: Stage 773 Thrust Stage (1225 W Belmont Ave)

Die Roll: 13

Over the last twelve months, I’ve now seen three productions by NightBlue Performing Arts Company, and I can gladly say that each time I sit down to take in one of their performances, it is better than the last.  With that in mind, I really enjoyed their latest endeavor, a lively production of the Disney classic “Mary Poppins”.

The play generally follows the tale we are all familiar with from the Disney movie of the same name.  The characters are the same as well.  Many of the songs are the same (although there are new songs added for the sake of the stage by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

The show is narrated by Bert (Ryan Dooley in a show-stealing role).  His charm and charisma carry the tale on its way.  Not unlike Dick Van Dyke from the film, Dooley gets all the best songs in the show, and he makes great use of them to show off his voice and his dancing skills.

 Kyrie Anderson and Ryan Dooley with the cast of "Mary Poppins"/Photo: Emily Schwartz.
Kyrie Anderson and Ryan Dooley with the cast of “Mary Poppins”/Photo: Emily Schwartz

Kyrie Anderson plays the title role a little more stiffly and smugly than her film-world counterpart, she is well-fitted to the world created upon director David E. Walters’ stage.  She isn’t going to measure up to Julie Andrews, but then again who is?  And I think that’s one of the strengths of this production: they do not try to duplicate the memories of the movie.  Anderson makes the role her own, and it does differ from what one may expect upon entering the theatre.  And that’s just fine.  She is a bit more ramrod straight and certainly seems a little less fun than her chimney sweep sidekick, but then she is the responsible party when it comes to the kids.  It works.

The kids themselves are solid performers, but I must go a step beyond and point out that Sage Harper in the role of Jane Banks shows a lot of skill and potential for one so young.  She’ll easily be able to take on roles like Mary later in her own life, I’m sure.

 Kyrie Anderson and Ryan Dooley/Photo: Emily Schwartz
Kyrie Anderson and Ryan Dooley/Photo: Emily Schwartz

I was particularly impressed by the technical aspects of this play.  The rig used to fly in Mary is at times visible, but easily ignored and enjoyed.  After all, one of the first thoughts I had when assigned this show was, “I wonder how they’re going to make Mary fly in the Stage 773 Thrust.  It has such a low ceiling.”  Well, they make her fly.  And, they do it well.  Bert gets his time in the sky, too.  The stage design features a number of units at various heights, including using the wrap-around catwalk that is naturally part of the space as the rooftops upon which the chimney sweeps can “Step in Time”.

The energy on this one is in-your-face, and it leaves a good feeling in the heart of each audience member.  So long as you’re not looking for a duplication of the film, you’ll be pleased with the show, and perhaps have a new view on what live would be like in Mary Poppins’ charge.

TEN WORD SUMMARYChimney sweep steals the show, but we really don’t mind.

RATING: d12 – “Heckuva Good Show”