Drama Guild's 'Mary Poppins' Entertaining Blend Of Book And Movie

By: Ellen Petry Whalen

Rebecca Banas as Mary Poppins. JEFF MOORE PHOTO

Mary Poppins might be the world’s most popular nanny, but she is anything but a lovey-dovey governess. In fact, it’s her firm approach and dry sense of humor that makes her charges feel safe, knowing she has their best interests at heart, even if she doesn’t cater to their every desire. With its strong cast, the all-volunteer Chatham Drama Guild hosts an energetic regional premiere of “Mary Poppins.” And, on opening night the community shared their enthusiasm, creating a sold-out show.

Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, “Mary Poppins” opened in London’s West End in 2004, and the near-identical Broadway version opened in 2006, receiving seven Tony nominations and ultimately running for over six years. The play is a blend of P.L. Travers’ 1934 children’s book and Disney’s 1964 movie, with the finished product a better reflection of Travers’ Mary Poppins — less sugar-coated than the movie version.

Local favorite Rebecca Banas is well cast, portraying a proper, no-nonsense Mary with a disarming and mischievous twinkle in her eye. She hits all the right notes in the show’s new songs, like “Practically Perfect,” in addition to old favorites, like “A Spoonful of Sugar,” although, on opening night, Banas wasn’t projecting as much as she is able.

Playing opposite Banas, Chuck Frates is charismatic as Bert, the famed chimney sweep who sings “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” The skilled actor is also a tap dance teacher, and he leads the cast in a lively tap-dance on the rooftops of London in “A Step in Time.”

Paul Johnson readily brings the movie’s Mr. Banks to mind with his similar features and with his formality and appreciation for efficiency. Delane Moser is a kind and non-assertive Mrs. Banks, who thankfully learns to speak her mind by the show’s end. She is an ideal foil to Johnson’s patriarchal approach.

The Banks’ children, Jane and Michael, are notably played by Catie Clarke and Liam Jordan. A Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School eighth grader, Clarke is wonderfully poised on stage, and shows a maturity beyond her years, while Jordan, a Monomoy Middle School sixth grader, has a delightful boyish charm.

Different from the movie, the stage production introduces Mr. Banks’ boyhood nanny, Miss Andrews. The audience couldn’t get enough of Lynne Johnson in this role, with her exaggerated diction and imposing ways, especially in the song “Brimstone and Treacle.” On top of it all, she looks like like Nanny McPhee, complete with the wart, before her magical make-over.

Director and costume designer Pamela Banas, with the help of musical director Geraldine Boles on the piano and chorographer Joanne Sinerate, reproduces the spirit of 17 Cherry Tree Lane with a cast of more than 20.

Set Designer Donald Howell creatively uses scene projections and a flexible set for the Banks’ two-story home and surrounding neighborhood.

The nanny Mary Poppins is known for having a touch of magic — after all, she does fly in on the wind, with the help of her black umbrella with a parrot-head handle. The Chatham Drama Guild’s two-and-a half-hour energetic musical has a few surprises in store for the younger audience members, especially when Mary opens up her over-sized carpet bag, and to their amazement, pulls out a full-sized coat rack.

 

Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins”

At Chatham Drama Guild, 134 Crowell Rd.

Through Aug. 6

Reservations and information: 508-945-0510