Tuacahn brings 'Mary Poppins' to the southern Utah stage

Published: Saturday, June 15 2013 12:30 p.m. MDT

Jesse Swimm is Bert, Mindy Smoot Robbins is doublecast as Mary Poppins and JoËl RenÉ is Mrs. Corry in Disney's "Mary Poppins, The Stage Musical" at the Tuacahn Outdoor Amphitheatre in Ivins, Utah.

Tim and Katasha Connor, Infinity Imagery

DISNEY AND CAMERON MACKINTOSH'S MARY POPPINS, THE BROADWAY MUSICAL; music and lyrics by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, new songs, additional music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe; Tuacahn Outdoor Amphitheatre, Ivins; Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays now through Oct.25; directed by Scott S. Anderson; tickets $27.50-$79.50, tuacahn.org; running time 3 hours, one 15-minute intermission

IVINS, Washington County — If you are a serious fan of the Mary Poppins story and really, really, really, like the songs and dances, you will enjoy this production.

It's crisp, colorful and well done.

Mindy Smoot Robbins (as Mary on alternate nights) is pretty, polished and every inch the perfect British nanny who brooks no nonsense but, at the same time, is completely without rules or explanation. She sings well and never lets on that it might be unnerving to be flying so high above the stage — umbrella at the ready — for much of the show.

Jesse Swimm makes an excellent Bert — funny, friendly and almost as inexplicable in his behavior.

In fact, all of the characters act just fine and the show is fine. The costuming, the choreography, the special effects — statues come to life, flowers lift right out of the picture, coat stands appear out of satchels, mirrors talk — are all nicely done.

It's just that there are inherent flaws in the story itself. It's simplistic and doesn't allow for very much, if any, character development. An interested father finally notices his children. A wimpy mother finally stands up for herself a little. Life in the Banks’ family changes for the better because Mary Poppins pops by for a while, even though she leaves abruptly and takes all the toys with her.

It's a little much to swallow even with a spoonful of sugar.

It's also hard to wait through the singing and tap dancing in sweltering heat late into the night. (If you go, dress lightly and take plenty of water.)

But again, if you're already a fan of the show, this is for you.

As a production, it turned out nicely. Only a couple of glitches marred the opening, a door left open in the backdrop, a chair leg that didn't pop back up into place on cue. Also, if the car on stage is an English car, the steering wheel needs to be on the proper side.

There are a number of curious and clever moments that intrigue, such as flying the kites, sliding down the rock side, the toys coming to life in the nursery.

When Bert walks up the side of the stage, hangs upside down across the top and then strides down again, it's impressive.

There are horses and a stagecoach and a fluffy, talking puppy puppet. A giant tent rises straight out of the ground and foliage just bursts onto the trees.

The special effects in this show are quite fun.

The children, played by Lauren Allen and Grant Westcott, are fairly charming in their roles as Jane and Michael Banks, children who've made a game of convincing their nannies they're too much trouble to care for.

Yet they really want and need an adult to pay them some attention.

Westcott has several drop-dead lines that he delivers with style. "Where is everyone? Are they all dead?!"

If it weren't so long, it would be a good one for the kids, but if it were a DVD, it would be one to stop and finish tomorrow.

It's sweet and ultimately resolved with the family coming together.

It's just that the basic story is what it is and it takes forever to get through "Step in Time" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius."

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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