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Practically Perfect “Mary Poppins” at Croswell Opera House (review) June 27, 2015

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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I’ll come back to that “practically” in a bit — but what a night of theatre Croswell Opera House has put together in the Disney musical “Mary Poppins”. Seen on Friday night of the final week of performances (the remainder are all sold out), I was so glad I had the opportunity to spend what felt like “old home week” (with the sheer number of friends onstage and in the audience and working all over the theater!) at Croswell last night. And it sure made me feel proud of being a part of one of the most exciting theaters anywhere.

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Leah Fox, starring as Mary, was astonishing — vocals, timing, appearance, stage presence, and poise while flying!…and yes, there is lots of flying on two separate tracks and it looks great.

Steve Antalek made for a terrific Mr. Banks, and Michelle Force a fine Mrs Banks (both parts are fleshed out for the stage musical from the film, and the second act storyline revolves around them). Kyle Sell plays a delightful (if a bit too young) singing, dancing, prat-falling Bert. “Step in Time” was simply spectacular. Chloe Danley and Cole Carrico made for a wonderful child-star pair as Jane and Michael Banks. Mary Rumman is awesome good as evil Mrs Andrews.

All secondary characters were strong, displayed super singing/acting/dancing talent, and even the youngest of them never dropped character. The ensemble was strong and sounded great in their many numbers.

In what has to be the biggest, most colorful, and most technologically challenging musical Croswell has ever mounted, the massive sets and gorgeous costumes never overwhelmed the very human performances onstage (as they did at times in the West End and Broadway productions). Kudos to director Julianne Dolan, Musical Director Butch Marshall, Choreographer Sarah Nowak (I did mention “Step in Time”, right?), Technical Director Keith Holloway, Costume Designer-extraordinaire Susan Eversden, Lighting Designer Tiff Crutchfield, and Stage Manager Jacqueline Adams for making it all work like clockwork.

A few quibbles that kept the show from being perfect (although to beat a dead horse, it was “practically” so)…some of the sound, in particular the opening of Act One was muffled and hard to hear over the orchestra…there were some odd stage effects that didn’t quite work: a swirling light effect in one instance, a bed that “magically appeared” but which the entire house right audience had already seen being pushed on later in that same scene. And there were entirely too many people onstage during both “Jolly Holiday” and “Supercalifragilistic” which detracted from the more highly-skilled dancers that were upstaged by, in one instance, children playing leap-frog, and in another by too many people  crowded into a park shop. (For the record, the Broadway cast was comprised of 40 adults and two children while this current production is comprised of 23 adults and 19 children, which in my mind is probably about 15 children too many). That, of course, is a personal opinion of mine, as it didn’t seem to effect the audience reaction (many of whom were clearly there to see brothers, sisters, and cousins and ran up and down the theater aisles and/or had to go to the bathroom when their loved-ones were not onstage). Not to be “that guy”, but I am very much “that guy”.

I can not fathom the budget that this production has — clearly at least 20 times what the other similar theaters around SE Michigan can allocate to this type of production — and it all shows…from the stunning sets, to the astonishing costumes, to the (very expensive) flight equipment, and to every detail that has been paid to make Mary Poppins one of the most spectacular non-professional productions you are likely to see anywhere. And I mean anywhere, let alone right here in our own backyard.

Mary Poppins continues through June 28th at Croswell Opera House. Remaining performances are sold out. Check with the box office for returns/singles.

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