The newly renovated Raleigh Memorial Auditorium was filled with music and magic once more as North Carolina Theatre's production of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins came to life on opening night. Audience members of all ages filled the seats with anticipation, ready to experience the magic that this show captures.
Having just lost yet another nanny, Mrs. Winifred Banks (Lisa Brescia) is instructed by her husband, Mr. George Banks (Gary Milner), to run an advertisement for a nanny who will raise their children. Mr. Banks puts precision and order in front of all other things and wants a nanny who will shape the Banks family into the socialites that he believes his family should be. Both Brescia and Milner have Broadway credits to their names and brought the level of talent to Mary Poppins that comes with many years of honing their craft.
The Banks children write an advertisement of their own, to which the nanny Mary Poppins responds. Soon after her arrival, Mary Poppins describes herself and her qualifications as "Practically Perfect" in a song that was cut from the original film.
Performing last on Broadway as Glinda in Wicked and Katherine in Newsies, Kara Lindsay is a brilliant fit for the role of Mary Poppins; she sparkled as the charming and loving nanny. Lindsay commanded the stage with a certain refined poise that would make Julie Andrews proud. I was truly entranced by her lovely vibrato and her glimmering tone.
After quickly assessing the children, Mary Poppins determines that Michael and Jane Banks (Micah Boan and Riley Rose Campbell) are short-tempered and untidy. For being quite young, the actors both demonstrated an embodiment of their characters and maintained the blend of being childishly adorable and precocious for their age. Mary Poppins promises to make the children just as perfect as she is.
The children are introduced to various games, the first being a walk through the park with Mary Poppins. It is at this time that the children are introduced to Bert, played by Nicolas Dromard. Having recently closed the Broadway production of Mary Poppins as Bert, one could only expect Dromard to have incredible mastery of his character. Dromard was charming, funny, and playful, assisting Mary Poppins in teaching the Banks children about the beauty of a walk in the park. Dromard wasted no time in demonstrating his incredible dancing abilities in "Jolly Holiday." It was during this scene that the audience was first able to experience the incredible choreography featured in this production. Ryan Kasprzak, the choreographer, showcased his array of talented dancers. Nicolas Dromard captivated the audience with his dancing penguin friends, children from the NC Theatre Conservatory Kid's Ensemble.
Truly taking this song to the next level was Neleus played by Jose Rondon, Jr. His control of his body had me, as well as the people around me, gasping, giggling, and cheering as he flipped, jumped, and even integrated elements of modern breakdancing.
The ensemble of Mary Poppins featured talented dancers and comical characters, such as Mrs. Brill (Kathy Fitzgerald), Robertson Ay (Ryan Breslin), Mrs. Corry (Yolanda Rabun), Admiral Boom (T. Philip Caudle), and Miss Andrew (Jane Blass).
In a fantastical show like this, props, lighting and set elements are very important for conveying that sense of magic and childlike wonder to audience. Mary Poppins was gracefully flown on and off stage multiple times, and her endless magic bag of coat racks, sheets, and an apron amazed the children in the audience. These magical moments are the ones that give the message of the show its timeless charm.
Mary Poppins continues through Sunday, July 31. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.