When Santa Monica’s Morgan-Wixson Theatre decided to present “MARY POPPINS the Broadway Musical” as the final production of their 2017-18 Mainstage season, the group had no idea how the old theater adage “The Show Must Go On” would prove the title character’s belief that “anything can happen when you let it.”
You see, the original directing team deserted the production a month before it was due to open, with an incomplete cast in place and tickets already having been sold. How could the incredible challenge be met on time?
Let me assure you, thanks to its new directors Kristie Mattsson and Aric Martin, musical directors Andrew Lederman and Daniel Koh, choreographers Lauren Blair and Holly Weber, and producers Anne & Larry Gesling, Spencer Johnson, and Meredith Wright, I would never have known such an additional challenge had been in place given the incredible quality of the production I saw!
Led magnificently by Amanda Greig who shines in the iconic title role and Philip McBride as Bert, the energetic chimney sweep who guides the tale of the troubled Banks family to perfection, the cast of 28 masterful as well as astoundingly athletic performers (and a very cute dog, Willoughby, thanks to puppeteer Ella Ward) lift this musical extravaganza to heights beyond what you would expect could be created on a community theater stage, a practically perfect production that will capture your heart from start to finish.
Adapted from one of the most popular Disney movies of all time, “MARY POPPINS the Broadway Musical” takes place in England around the turn of the 20th Century. The story begins as jack-of-all-trades, Bert, introduces us to the troubled Banks family. Patriarch George Banks (Spencer Johnson) centers his life around “procedure and order,” while his wife Winifred (Eileen O’Donnell) soon realizes she is capable beyond just being a wife and mother, finally able to find her voice and speak her truth. Young Jane and Michael (super talented kids Sadie Foster and Ethan Kuwata) have sent many a nanny packing before the “Practically Perfect” Mary Poppins shows up on their doorstep.
And soon, using a combination of magic and common sense, Mary teaches the family how to value each other again via life lessons taught through song and dance, most notable to “look past what you can see,” “people often say things they don’t mean,” “sometimes families can be upside down for a while,” “if you can’t be good, you might as well be sorry,” “be careful what you wish for,” and of course, “anything can happen when you let it!”
As Mary tells us, “You won’t know a challenge until you’ve met it.” Congrats to everyone involved in this family-friendly production – you have met and exceeded this one!
“Mary Poppins the Broadway Musical” continues on weekends through Aug. 4 at The Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Show schedule and tickets available at www.morgan-wixson.org or by phone at 310-828-7519. Adults $28, Students and Seniors $23. Recommended for ages 6 and older.