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'Mary Poppins'

Now onstage until May 26 at the Imperial Theatre, St. John, New Brunswick

Credit: Andrew Finlay Pictured: Pippa Wennberg and Bertis Sutton

Aaron Kropf

“A spit spot terrific family production”

The latest offering from Saint John Theatre Company is a real treat for everyone in the family. Mary Poppins soars at the Imperial Theatre for one weekend only. With brisk ticket sales, you will want to grab yours before they are all gone.

Mary Poppins is a familiar story full of songs that had the audience tapping their toes and clapping along. The story follows a magical nanny (Pippa Wenberg) who comes not only to help the Banks children, Jane (Ellie Clark) and Michael Banks (Joshua Birnbaum), but also their parents, George (CC Humphries) and Winifred (Tracy Ross). With the help of Jack of all trades Bert (Bertis Sutton), Mary teaches the children many lessons about life and growing up. Because of Mary, the Banks family gets to meet a wide range of characters, including a lovely scene with the Bird Woman (Ellen Snider), whose rendition of “Feed the Birds” was one of many highlights from the show.

The programme does not list a specific set designer. Dave Belyea is listed instead as the Set Construction lead. His simplistic set design of a few pillars and a central staircase surrounded by an archway relies heavily on projections to move from one London location to the next. Some of these projections added to the whimsy of the story. It is vital that when looking at projections, mainly when you include them in gags and highlight a character, you don’t heavily favour one side of the stage over the other. My daughter and I were seated on the far left of the auditorium, which wasn't an issue for the majority of the time. However, a few things were difficult to see because many of the gags, including the painting of Queen Victoria, were set far left on the stage. Most of these were done on the left pillar, so those sitting on the left side were lost.

Chelsea Cusack, a regular delight in Saint John Theatre Company productions, was deliciously vile as George Banks’ firmer nanny, Miss. Andrew. Her Brimstone and Treacle is precisely what you look for in a traditional Disney villain. One cannot talk about Mary Poppins without mentioning “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” It is incredible how a group of people that size could remain totally in sync while performing that choreography - no better way to wrap up Act One.

The chimney sweeps in “Step in Time" ended in thunderous applause. I know my 7-year-old will be talking about this number for some time.

Let's not forget about Bert and Mary. These iconic characters, deeply ingrained in our hearts by the Disney film, are a challenge for any new interpretation. Yet, Bertis Sutton (Bert) and Pippa Wennberg (Mary Poppins) have not only met this challenge but have also infused their own charm and wonder into these roles. Their performances are a testament to their talent and dedication, making this show a delightful nostalgic masterpiece.

Don’t miss Mary Poppins by Saint John Theatre Company at the Imperial Theatre until May 26th.You will leave the theatre happier and likely humming a tune or two. This is the best Saint John Theatre Company has been; do not miss this show.

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