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Review: Hale's 'Mary Poppins' will sweep you off your feet

Published June 24, 2014 11:04 am

Review • The special-effects-laden musical will delight audiences of all ages.
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West Valley City • Things are in a terrible state in the Banks household at 17 Cherry Tree Lane. The children, Jane and Michael, are rampaging and have just decimated their latest nanny. Their mother is overwhelmed and frustrated because she gets no support from their father, a cold, gruff man who thinks the household should run with "precision and order" but is too busy with his work at the bank to get involved.

But change is coming, Bert, the chimney sweep, tells us. The wind is in the west, and like Superman from the skies — or in this case, Superwoman — Mary Poppins blows in to save the day.

"We'll have to keep an eye on this one," Michael says. "She's tricky."

The Hale Centre Theatre just opened an exuberant production of Disney's musical version of P.L. Travers' beloved children's classic, "Mary Poppins," complete with her parrot-headed umbrella and magical, bottomless carpetbag.

The show is too long — the first act especially seems endless. But you aren't likely to mind as the Hale's production is so loaded with colorful sets and costumes thanks to Kacey Udy and Louise Pascoe, eye-popping special effects orchestrated by director John J. Sweeney, and lively song-and-dance numbers showing off Jenny Barlow's catchy choreography and Kelly DeHaan's as-always impeccable musical direction.

"Anything can happen if you let it," their new nanny tells the children, and that succinctly sums up the structure of the show.

In a series of musical numbers, she transforms the park into a wonderland where the statues come to life and a carousel rises from the floor in "Jolly Holiday"; helps the children clean up the kitchen and frost a cake in "Spoonful of Sugar"; takes them to a sweet shop that sells conversations in "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"; animates the toys in their nursery in "Playing the Game"; introduces Michael to kite flying in "Let's Go Fly a Kite"; shares a view from London's rooftops with Bert and his chimney sweep co-workers in the show's best musical number, "Step in Time"; and celebrates their father's triumph at the bank in "Anything Can Happen." Bert's repeating refrain of "Chim Chim Cher-ee" is the narrative thread that anchors these musical numbers..

As Mary in the Monday-Wednesday-Friday cast, Kimberly Olson Bunker is "practically perfect in every way." Perky and charismatic, she effortlessly handles singing and dancing challenges. David Smith's personable, philosophical Bert more than matches her expertise, and the two make an attractive couple.

Abigail Edwards and Anson Bagley are totally professional, yet delightfully unself-conscious, as Jane and Michael. Douglas Irey deftly transitions from the imperious George Banks of Act I to his much more human successor in Act II, and Michelle Blake nicely balances Winifred Banks' desire to please her husband and nurture her children against her need to be her own person.

JaNae Gibbs Cottam contributes a delightful cameo as Miss Andrews, "the nastiest nanny in the world." Adam Flitton's lighting flexibly modulates from happy to moody as the occasion demands.

"Mary Poppins" may be short on substance, but this stylish production compensates for its transparency, and Travers' charming characters and imaginative situations carry us back to our childhoods when the world was still full of wonder. —

'Mary Poppins'

The Hale's exuberant and energetic production of "Mary Poppins" brings the children's classic to life with pizazz and color.

When • Reviewed on June 16; runs nightly at 7:30, except Sunday, with matinees at 4 p.m. on Fridays and 12:30 and 4 p.m. on Saturdays, through Aug. 9. Extra shows at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 28, July 12, 19 and 26, and Aug. 2 at 9 a.m.; and at 4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, July 7, 10, 28 and 31, and Aug. 4 and 7. No performances on July 4, 24 and 30.

Where • Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City

Tickets • $32 for adults and $16 for children (5 to 11). Call 801-984-9000 or visit http://www.hct.org for tickets and information.

Running time • Two hours and 45 minutes (including an intermission)