'Mary Poppins' drops in to delight at Hale Centre Theatre

Published: Monday, June 23 2014 5:30 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, June 23 2014 5:14 p.m. MDT

Brittany Sanders is Mary Poppins and Geoffrey Reynolds is Bert, the chimney sweep, in the Hale Centre Theatre production of "Mary Poppins."

Doug Carter

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"MARY POPPINS," through Aug. 9; Hale Centre Theatre, 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City; running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes with 10-minute intermission; $16-$32 (801-984-9000 or hct.org)

WEST VALLEY CITY — The child next to me in the Hale Centre Theatre said, "That's so cool! You should write it down" after one of the magic tricks Mary Poppins performed as casually as she flew in.

And the child was right.

It was and is cool — and magical, colorful, inventive and delightful to watch.

"Mary Poppins," as directed by John Sweeney and produced on this versatile, round stage, is fresh and fun.

Even the numbers that sometimes slow this musical a bit held audience interest because of the costuming, the lighting and the fun additions that continually surprised.

The audience never knows what's coming next.

It's completely entertaining and engaging as Poppins pulls impossible and long objects like mops, a mirror, a telescope, a hat rack and even people out of her carpet bag.

She can change behavior and lives with simple songs and words.

Her duel with the "wicked" nanny from Mr. Banks' childhood is something to watch as the two fend off each other's magic and battle for the upper hand.

Poppins, played in the Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday cast by Brittany Sanders, is articulate, bold and a bewitching, ideal kind of governess who arrives in answer to little Michael and Jane's advertisement. (They've already chased out numerous nannies.)

Michael, played by Cairo McGee (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday), is sweet and guileless.

He and his sister, played by Maggie Scott, are precocious and desperate for some attention from mum and dad. Poppins supplies just the right kind of magical guidance.

Mr. Banks, played by Mark Knowles (Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday), is a busy banker way too dedicated to his work and to the precision of things. His supportive and initially overly submissive wife (played by Michelle Blake, Monday/Wednesday/Friday cast) is sad and unsure of how to help him.

Poppins arrives to change things and does so by introducing fun, fancy and charity into the family.

Her "Spoonful of Sugar" lightens up life at the nursery, and a "Jolly Holiday" at the park, where statues dance and sing, makes a difference right away.

Those who are already fans of this story will especially enjoy the chimney sweep, Bert, played on this Thursday by David Smith (Monday/Wednesday/Friday cast). He's kind and bold and a little bit crazy. He's also completely unafraid of walking up the side of a chimney supported only by a pair of wires.

This production is eye candy throughout, from the park to the conversation shop, and even to the bank, with bright costuming and interesting lighting arranged to make the most of whatever is going on. (It helps that the Hale Centre stage can go up, down and around.)

The supporting characters — Mrs. Brill, played by Jocelyn Hansen, and Robertson Ay, played by Jacob Theo Squire — add humor and heart as they try to keep the household together and ice a cake for Mrs. Banks' formal bash.

Jannae Gibbs Cottam is a wonderful, scary "Miss Andrew," dishing out brimstone and treacle rather than spoonfuls of sugar for children who are in trouble. She doubles nicely for the Bird Woman and the original, departing Katie Nanna.

The set pieces are creatively constructed as well with a breaking bed, a wardrobe with working suit sleeves and twin beds that hold real-life toys at one point.

The costuming is very traditional British for day-to-day, frothy for the Jolly Holiday and completely wild and wonderful for the conversation shop.

Aside from a few small technical glitches, it's a flawless show filled with lively, sweet music and magic and a Mary who delivers her lines with perfect English and panache: "I never explain myself!" she declares.

Those who love the story will enjoy this production, while those who haven't liked it before will now.

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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