Highly Recommended ***** Oh, it’s a “Jolly Holliday” with Mary and well worth the drive to Aurora to see the spectacular production that they are presenting for this Holiday Season, “Mary Poppins”. The Disney film has been transported to a live theatrical production many times- Broadway touring, of course and recently at one of the other regional theaters, but the space at The Paramount Theatre in Aurora allows the magic of what the story is all about to be seen with wide open eyes by the audiences that will partake of their special helping of Holiday Cheer through January 4th.
Under the skillful eye of director Rachel Rockwell, who continues to unveil her magic on Chicago area stages with new ideas and innovations, we thrilled to the spectacle of watching this movie take on a new life, live! right before our very eyes. While the combination of film and animation was a great effect for the award-winning film, under Rockwell’s leadership and her skillful understanding of what the show is all about, “Mary Poppins” flys!
The stories that were written by P.L Travers depicting this colorful character are far different from what Disney brought to us back in the film version and then when it was made into a live stage production with a book by Julian Fellowes and original music by the Sherman brothers ( who did a great deal of Disney work) it took on a new life and in many ways some new meaning as well.
The story is about a family, George and Winifred Banks ( played to perfection by Michael Aaron Linder and Cory Goodrich) who with their children, Jane and Michael ( played by Charlie Babbo and Peyton Shaffer along with alternates Jake Helm and Eloise Lushina) and George’s quest to have the “perfect family”. He was raised by a nanny himself and sees nothing wrong with the children having little to do with their parents, except for holidays and such. The children want to have fun and have gone through nannies like there is no tomorrow. But from their own request for someone who will be fun, Mary Poppins shows up and from her very first day, the magic begins on the stage and in their lives. In all their lives!
Emily Rohm is absolutely divine in the title role- her voice is elegant and her playfulness with the other players is sheer perfection. In fact, one might say, she is “Practically Perfect” as she introduces Michale and Jane to real life and real people. Her friend Bert, who is our narrator as well as a man of all season is played by Matt Crowle who is amazing and will make you forget about the guy who played this character in the film. Dick somebody or other, I think! Crowle makes Bert very real and his dancing skill is amazing. There is even a scene where he bungees and taps to a different drummer as they take a new look at “Step In Time”. Yes, all tha amazing songs from the film are here along with a few extras and the story is one that children of all ages will find breathtaking. Oh, yes, you will also see Mary FLY ( more than once).
My grandson, Adam, a nine year old, was very impressed with the flying part of the play. after seeing last year’s “Wizard of Oz” as part of the BIC series, he wondered how they would handle the special effects for this one. As we entered the theater, the beauty struck him, but he did notice a track that appeared to be out of place. He knew that she would make her final exit there, but was shocked to see her flying in other areas of the stage during the story.He loved it!
Adam also found that the story line was awesome in that the children learn some real lessons about life; about the importance of love and communication and that family is of great importance. The music was great, the dancing awesome (Adam was smiling for most of the play’s two plus hours) and he saw that the kids ended up being happy with their dad as he got a chance to go “Fly a Kite”!.
The ensemble players truly are of great importance in a huge undertaking such as this one. They play many roles and have to act, sing and dance. One of my favorite cast members, who plays a few roles, Don Forston, who has been thrilling Chicago audiences for years was out of the opening week due to some medical problems ( nothing major, kind of routine and filling in for hm, the incredible Roger Mueller ( a strong character actor who always seems familiar to us). Other cast members that truly shine are William Carlos Angulo and Marily Bogetich.
The ensemble is made up of: Courtney Cerny, Carl Draper, Cameron Edris, Adam Fane, Allyson Graves, Matthew R. Jones, Glory Kissel, Tommy Lucas, Amber Mak, James Nedrud, Maggie Portman, Todd Rhodes, Laura Savage. Will Skrip, Holly Stauder and Lauren Villegas. Small in numbers, but huge in talent!
Under the direction of Musical director Tom Vendafreddo, the Paramount Orchestra fills the theater with the wonderful music of The Shermans and we all walk out with a smile on our face and a warm feeling in our hearts. Remember, all it takes is a “Spoonful of Sugar” and shaking hands with a chimney sweep to have a special day, but even better, a trip to Aurora with the ones you love might be the perfect remedy for what ails you.
Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Thursdays at 7 p.m.
Friday at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 1 and 5:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $41 t $54 and can be purchased at the box office located at 8 East Galena in Aurora, by phone at 630-896-6666 or online at www.ParamounAurora.com– this should be on your MUST see list.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Mary Poppins”.