Here’s an idea for the holiday weekend that, while not holiday-themed, is family-friendly and celebrates the notion that every day reveals its own fun moments as long as we are open to them. “Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins” is playing now at the Stagecrafters’ Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak, and it makes its own extraordinary musical magic. In fact, just being in that ornate old theatre makes it feel like a special occasion.
Given the popularity of the books by P.L. Travers, the Oscar winning 1964 Disney film, and the more recent, critically acclaimed film “Saving Mr. Banks,” it could be said that Mary Poppins fans are legion. The current Stagecrafters version of “Mary Poppins” is calculated to please all those who grew up with some version of the amazing Ms. P. And if the kids in the opening-night crowd were any indication, Mary is poised to work her charms on a new generations of fans.
“The musical splits the difference between the film and the books,” says Director John Luther of Farmington. “The books tend to be darker. Essentially, the books are a series of adventures (short stories) that the Banks children (five, not two) have with Mary. The musical is darker than the film and it is that juxtaposition that makes the ending happier.”
This is, in fact, the Broadway version that was, as the name implies, co-created by the Disney people and superstar producer Cameron Mackintosh (“Les Misérables,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Oliver!,” “Miss Saigon” and “Cats”), with a sparkling book by Julian Fellowes, of “Downton Abbey” renown.
It’s a big production, but that has never scared off Stagecrafters, who seem eager to seek out the most challenging Broadway shows in order to fill the historic Baldwin theatre with patrons and the music they love most. With more than 20 cast members in the ensemble, (including those double-cast for the roles of Mary Poppins and the two children), plus a terrific 13-piece orchestra, this show is joyful, colorful and irresistible. It includes all the popular songs from the Sherman Brothers, plus new ones by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe that add some backstory and reveal a sense of yearning in Mr. and Mrs. Banks that is glossed over in the film.
The Stagecrafters cast, with direction and choreography by John Luther, serves up an ensemble performance that lets us forget we’re enjoying community theatre. The principals have beautifully trained and controlled voices and Music Director/Conductor Jim Territo makes the most of them. Stagecrafters veteran Celeste So, who alternates as Mary Poppins with Hayley Pulizzi, delivers the bell-like tones we require of the world’s favorite nanny, with a proper, but slightly saucy attitude to go with it. Jane and Michael Banks are also double cast, and the team we saw on opening night (Madilyn Lajoice as Jane and Spencer Clark as Michael) stole the spotlight like old pros. They alternate with Gabriela Moncivais and Nathan Koss. Jason Cooper was born to play the role of Bert, the light-hearted, light-footed chimney sweeps who navigates many of the adventures and keeps the story light, too. Christine Kapusky Moore, as Mrs. Banks, brings more dimension to the role than you might be used to seeing, and her voice backs it up. Stagecrafters favorite Tony Battle find the right touch as Mr. George Banks, the ultimate beneficiary of Mary Poppins’ magic. Zak Shugart delivers an amazing dance performance as Neleus. And even Tan Mason, as the two “other” nannies, manages to terrify us into submission with the sheer power of her voice. A complete list of cast and crew appears at the end of this article—all deserve congratulations on this show.
We don’t want to give away any of the productions secrets, but this spectacular staging has plenty of Poppinesque magic to thrill young and old. Even the set design (David McIntosh, Mark Clark) is enchanting. Inspired by the National Touring production, it consists largely of a giant cube that is spun by the actors and opened in myriad ways to reveal the Banks’ home, the park, the London rooftops, and other scenes.
The Edwardian costumes for this huge cast (Dolly Scheibelhut) delight the eye, plus there are many unexpected wardrobe and makeup effects (Christine Chubenko) that are revealed as Jane and Michael discover new friends in old corners of London.
This production of “Mary Poppins” runs at the beautiful Baldwin Theatre (415 S. Lafayette in Royal Oak) through December 20, 2015. Check the Stagecrafters website for the dates, times and featured cast members—and expect sell-out shows. Show tickets are $22 on Thursdays, $24 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Tickets may be purchased online or by phone at 248-541-6430 using Visa or MasterCard. All seats are reserved; if shows have not sold out, tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour prior to the performance. Student, military and senior discounts are available for specific performances.
Cast and Crew List by Community:
Bert – Jason Cooper, Belleville
Stage Manager – Justine Dearth, Berkley
Set Design – David McIntosh, Beverly Hills
Co-Producer – Bobbi McNally, Birmingham
Winifred Banks – Christine Kapusky Moore, Canton
Miss Lark/Birdwoman/Ensemble – Therese Wisnewski, Clarkston
Assistant Stage Manager – Becca Wisnewski, Clarkston
Sound Design – Clayton Bushmaker, Clawson
Ensemble/Fannie – Danielle Peck, Clawson
Ensemble/Teddy Bear – Ryan Quinn, Clawson
Ensemble/Ballerina Doll – Julie Wilson, Commerce Twp
Ensemble/Von Hussler – Andrew Szykula, Dearborn
Ensemble/Park Keeper – Michael Ameloot, Detroit
Ensemble/Mrs. Corry – Arielle Crosby, Detroit
Katie Nanna/Miss Andrew – Tan Mason, Detroit
Director/Choreographer – John Luther, Farmington
Jane Banks – Madilyn LaJoice, Farmington Hills
Co-Producer – Betsey Schrock, Farmington Hills
Props – Jenny Boyle, Ferndale
Jane Banks – Gabriela Moncivais, Grosse Pte Park
Mary Poppins – Celeste So, Huntington Wds
Michael Banks – Nathan Koss, Lake Orion
Michael Banks – Spencer Clark, Lincoln Park
Master Carpenter – Mark Clark, Lincoln Park
Technical Director – Jody Florkowski, Madison Hgts
Production Asst -Sandy Malotke, Madison Hgts
Set Dress – Rodel Salazar, Madison Hgts
Lighting Design – Lucy Meyo, Milford
Assistant Director – Stacey Kawa, Oakland Twp
Music Director – Jim Territo, Pontiac
Mrs Brill – Katherine Huyghe, Rochester Hills
Ensemble/Miss Smythe – Sandra Marselle, Rochester Hills
Ensemble/Constable – Bob Marselle, Rochester Hills
George Banks – Tony Battle, Royal Oak
Admiral Boom/Bank Chairman – Ed Berger, Royal Oak
Makeup Design – Christine Chubenko, Royal Oak
Hair – Kathleen Furlong, Royal Oak
Costume Designer – Dolly Scheibelhut, Royal Oak
Co-Producer – Linda Zublick, Royal Oak
Robertson Ay – Nasir Khawaja, Southfield
Ensemble/Northbrook – Mark Hinton, Sterling Heights
Ensemble/Valentine – Christine Maurer, Troy
Neleus – Zak Shugart, Troy
Mary Poppins – Hayley Pulizzi, Warren