Welcome to the world of Walt Disney and New Bedford Festival Theatre Company's 25th Anniversary show is "Mary Poppins.'' The show is based on the P.L. Travers books and the 1964 movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. It shows anything can and will happen at #17 Cherry Hill Lane.The Broadway version opened on November 16, 2006 closed March 3, 2013 and ran for 2619 performances. The show was nominated for seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. It is now a full Broadway musical with 44 major awards worldwide. The story of Mary Poppins, the magical nanny who flies into the troubled lives of the Banks children will dazzle and delight audiences of all ages. Bert, the chimney sweep welcomes the audience into the world of Mary Poppins with "Chim Chim Cheree" and we continue to follow Mary's exploits throughout all of London. She charms each person she comes in contact with back in London in 1910. The flying special effects captures the hearts of every audience member, making them leap to their feet before the curtain call. Director/choreographer Michael Susko outdoes himself with this musical extravaganza with expert musical direction by Juan Rodriguez and his talented orchestra. Bravo on a job very well done.
Michael's energetic dances leave you breathless at the cast's excellent execution. The most impressive dances include the tap dance for "Step in Time", "Playing the Game" with the Toy Dance at the end of Act 1 with Valentine played by Neil Jeronimo and the "Jolly Holiday" dancers with a superb dancing statue Neleus played by Alex Eisenberg. Juan obtains beautiful harmonic balance between the cast and the orchestra. The colorful beautiful set is by Chinchilla Theatrical while the multitude of gorgeous costumes are by Aaron Gendreau-Visco. The terrific lighting is by Christopher Fournier. Leading this large cast is Melissa McKamie as Mary Poppins. She is a gorgeous brunette and is captivating as this magical nanny. Melissa's glorious soprano voice soars in "Practically Perfect", "Spoon Full of Sugar", 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", "Feed the Birds" and "Anything Can Happen" which induces a standing ovation. Her interactions with her fellow cast members is astounding. Melissa is phenomenal in this role and her flying in and off stage has to be seen to be believed. It is excellently executed by Flying by Foy. I last reviewed Melissa as Maria Von Trapp in NBFT's "Sound of Music" last summer.Taylor Wright also shines as Bert, the chimney sweep. He narrates the beginning of the show by singing "Chim, Chim Cheree" which turns into a huge dance number later on in the show as well as a duet between Bert and Mary. Taylor also sings "Jolly Holiday", "Let's Go Fly a Kite" and "Step in Time" a fantastic tap dance that stops the show. Taylor and Melissa make the perfect leads for this sensational show.
The supporting performers do a marvelous job with their roles, too. Bobby Sylvia plays the father, George Banks. He displays his strong voice in "Cherry Tree Lane" with his family as well as in his two solos, "A Man Has His Dreams" when he realizes he has changed from being an idealistic youth and in "Good For Nothing" when he is depressed after being suspended from the bank. Bobby makes a splendid transition from martinet to a more loving and caring father by show's end. Lauren Gemelli shines as Mrs. Banks. She displays her powerhouse voice in "Being Mrs. Banks" when she thinks she let her husband and children down and in "Anything Can Happen" when she decides to follow her heart and defend her husband. The two children performers, 14 year old Emmie Kelly as Jane and nine year old Robert Goulet as Michael excel in these two roles. Their acting is impeccable and their marvelous voices are heard in "Perfect Nanny", "Practically Perfect", "Jolly Holiday", "Spoonful of Sugar", "Let's Go Fly a Kite" and "Step in Time". They also dance up a storm with the adults. Emmie and Robert are onstage almost the whole show and remain in character all night long. His final I love you, Mary Poppins leaves you in tears. Bravo!
The villainess in this show is Miss Andrew excellently played by Stacey Geer. She is a hoot as this malevolent woman who rejects Mary Poppins spoon full of sugar to her own elixir "Brimstone and Treacle" with castor oil. Miss Andrew is a tyrant and a nightmare of a nanny who scared George as a child. Her voice soars up to a high B in her song! Stacey and Melissa do a reprise of this song when Mary Poppins finally banishes her from Jane and Michael's lives forever. Stacey displays her versatility as an actress playing the kindly Mrs. Corry in Act 1. She runs a candy store where the "Supercalifragilisticexpialiadocious" dance segment which stops the show with the dancing and singing of one and all. Staci Morin tugs at your heartstrings as the Bird Woman who sings the poignant "Feed the Birds" with Melissa. The Bird Lady also teaches Michael how to be kind to others. Staci displays her comic prowess as Mrs. Brill, the Banks long suffering housekeeper. Blond haired Ben Royer wins laughs as butler especially funny is when the set breaks apart and he falls unconscious to the floor. Ben does some excellent pratfalls in this role. John Costa shows his versatility as he plays both the Bank Chairman and Admiral Bloom who always keeps his eye on the weather. He was a hoot last year as Max in "The Sound of Music." Kudos to the entire cast and crew on a magnificent job with this enormous heartwarming show. So for marvelous and magical rendition of this awesome Disney musical, be sure to catch "Mary Poppins" before she flies out of town for good. Run do not walk to the box office before the show is completely sold out. What a fabulous way to celebrate New Bedford Festival Theatre's 25 Anniversary!