Highly Recommended ***** Over the years of viewing productions by the Non-Equity Night Blue Performing Arts Company, I have witnessed the growth of company that has high energy, finds solid talent and overall, exceeds the expectations of those who buy a ticket to see a show. They are a small company taking on major productions, which shows how determined they are to bring quality to the general public. Translated, this means affordable ticket prices. Currently they are offering the Chicago, Non-Equity Premiere of “Mary Poppins”. Yes, this is the Disney and Cameron Mackintosh full -scale musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers, with original music and lyrics by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, a book by Julian Fellowes with extra songs and music created by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. This is a major production to say the least!
Directed by David E. Walters on a smaller stage that puts the audience within a few feet of the chimney sweeps doing their “Step In Time” (this number alone is worth the price of the ticket). The music, under the direction of Austin Cook is superbly done and despite the small venue, never overpowers the singers. The choreography by Kevin Bellie is absolutely delightful and I am quite surprised that this show was not Jeff Recommended. It is a sheer delight to watch a smaller, newer company bring a large-scale musical to a small intimate stage where both kids and adults enjoyed every second of this 2 hour and 35 minute production (including a 15 minute intermission).
The story is the same as it has always been. The Banks family of Cherry Lane in London is not a happy one. Mrs. Banks (Mackenzie Skye) would prefer not living high on the hog and having her children Jane (the adorable Sage Harper) and Michael (deftly handled by Liam Dahlborn) be handled by a nanny. Mr. Banks ( a strong performance by Joe Smith) is in the world of finance and feels he must set a higher standard. His children need to be disciplined, so he needs to find a nanny that will do for them what his did for him during his childhood. Enter Mary Poppins (Kyrie Anderson is not only lovely with a winning smile, she has a powerful voice with a great range as well). The Banks world will change forever! And so will yours! Her magical touch is just that. For a small company on a limited budget, Walters made sure they had it all. Bravo!
While we see Mary do her magic in transforming Jane and Michael, we also bear witness to transformations for both Winnie and George Banks and everyone else in the cast. Mary’s old buddy, Bert ( richly played by Ryan Dooley, who never attempts to imitate Dick Van Dyke’s movie Bert), is quite the singer and dancer making quick costume changes and winning our hearts as well as those of the kids in the story. The ensemble is made up of some very strong performers who in many cases play many roles where they sing, dance and act and in doing so fill the stage with many characters: Caron Buinis (her Miss Andrew is a scream), Judy Knudtson, Matthew Provencal, Sierra Naomi (“feed the Birds” is a standout number, Eileen Casey, Ryan J. Duncan, Jake Stempel, Brian Fimoff, Tim Casey, Kara Schoenhofer, Mo Allen, Josie Burck and Paul Packer. I think they were all onstage for “Step in Time” as we witnessed sweeps on the roof of the set and along the side stages.
Speaking of the technical aspects, we need to pay homage to Diane Kaffka for making this small theater appear much larger on her masterful set. Erik Berry’s lighting was perfect as was the sound (Kelly Brooks and Christopher Cummings). Chicago Flyhouse is where the equipment came from but David Walters is the man who made Mary fly. Yes, they did have her fly off and on twice, as well as Bert’s special somersaults in the major “Step In Time” number. Laura Walters and JoAnn Robertson were involved with the myriad of costume changes which were brilliantly handled. Max Main handled the projections to a tee and made us feel that we had taken a trip to Cherry Lane ourselves.
This may not be a Jeff Recommended show (although I do not know why not) but I am recommending it to you as a must see, great family fare. It will continue at Stage 773 located at 1225 West Belmont through March 27th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 1 p.m.
NO PERFORMANCE March 10th or 24th
Tickets range from $25-$37.50 and can be reserved by calling 773-327-5252 or online at www.stage773.com
To learn more about this company, visit www.nightbluetheater.com
Belmont Avenue has parking, some metered, some not. Valet parking is also available, and of course if you dine at Cooper’s, they have a courtesy lot.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Mary Poppins”