We were invited to see Mary Poppins on opening weekend. This made for a great “family date night!” See our review below, check out our tips to make the most of your visit, learn about some special events coming up, and don’t miss your chance to win tickets for your family through our GIVEAWAY!
By Patricia Hall, FairfaxFamilyFun.com
Funny, feisty, and full of warmth, Mary Poppins is a classic tale that many of us grew up with and now happily get to enjoy again with our children. The story of an unusual nanny – equal parts magic, heart, wisdom, and sass – is best remembered by the 1964 Walt Disney film with Julie Andrews in the titular role.
Mary Poppins also is a musical (based on the film and the original story by P. L. Travers), and Reston Community Players (RCP) brings the Broadway hit home, with shows now through March 12, 2016. This is an all-ages production that has most of the elements you’ll remember from the movie, including well-loved songs such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.”
It’s a bright and fun musical that has something “relatable” for everyone. George and Winifred Banks (faithfully played by Ward Ferguson and Amanda Jones) face pressure at work and at home, trying to properly raise their mischievous children. Kids will sympathize with the kids, Jane and Michael (Avery Daniel and Aidan Chomicki in commendable roles), whose antics stem not from malice, but mostly from boredom and wanting more attention from their father. Our son was impressed by the great job the kids did (and so were we!).
Our storyteller is jack-of-all trades Bert, charmingly played by Duane Monahan, and our star, of course, is Mary Poppins (Shaina Murphy), whose sweet and beautiful singing and clever acting perfectly capture the spirit of Mary Poppins: sweet but hard-headed, imaginative but traditional, fun but disciplined. Likewise, the frustrated father, George, is stern but likeable.
Other delightful performances come from Kieth Flores and Cara Giambrone as the bumbling house workers and Kate Keifer as Miss Andrew, the ultra-tough former nanny for George Banks whose memory still “terrorizes” some adults. Her appearance is brief but wonderful.
The choreography in this musical was great fun, with more complex numbers Mary Poppins fans know and love, such as “Step in Time” (the energetic one with the dancing chimney sweeps) and the toe-tapping “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” with the large cast singing, dancing, and expertly spelling out the 34 letters of the word. Don’t be surprised if your family keeps singing these songs for days to come!
The sets are bright, cheerful, and cleverly done to carry out multiple settings (the exterior of the house, the living room, kids’ room, kitchen, and rooftop, and the park and the bank) and even allow for some of Mary Poppins’ magic. While the cast and crew are able to quickly move from one scene to another, there are a few instances where it’s just not possible to transition so smoothly and thus the curtain has to come down. This might cause a bit of confusion for young patrons who don’t realize it’s time for a set change (during one such change that lasted for a few minutes, my son thought it was time for intermission). There were a few technical glitches here and there (such as a backdrop that was too slow to come up), but we attended on opening weekend and I attribute that to early-run “hiccups.”
This was a great show that truly makes for multi-generational family entertainment. Those of us who “grew up” with Mary Poppins will find it a lovely way to introduce the story to our own kids. My favorite scenes were the big dancing sequences and the arrival of Miss Andrews. My son’s favorite parts were the iconic scenes with Mary Poppins flying away on her umbrella. Of course, the tender moments, such as “Feed the Birds,” are still here.
The Mary Poppins cast also includes Katie Ferguson (Miss Lark/Mrs. Corry/Ensemble), Mike Walker (Admiral Boom/Bank Chairman), and the ensemble: Alexa Yarboro, Jocelyn Steiner, Karen Kelleher, Philip Smith-Cobbs, Sean Cafferky, Steven Palkovitz, Scott Kyriakakis, Catherine Kyriakakis, Caroline Griswold Short, Karen Consiglio, Chris Dore, Patrick McMahon, and Christopher Irizarry. The creative team includes director Wade Corder, choreographer Andrea Heininge, musical directors Dana and Jim Van Slyke, producer and scenic designer Richard Schneider, costume designers Charlotte Marson and Judy Whelihan, lighting designers Ken and Patti Crowley, sound designer Rich Bird, production stage manager Kaiti Parish, and assistant stage manager Eileen Mullee. You can see the full cast bios on the RCP site.
Mary Poppins plays weekends now through March 12, 2016, at Center Stage at the Reston Community Center at 2310 Colts Neck Road in Reston. Showtimes are 8 pm on Fridays and Saturday nights, and 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $20 and $23 for matinees and $21 and $25 for evening shows. It’s worth noting that Reston Community Players is an all-volunteer organization now celebrating its 49th year!
Planning on going? We have some very useful tips:
- If you’re taking young kids, please note this show is long: it’s about three hours long with one 15-minute intermission. If your kids are very young and only used to local children’s theatre productions (which are typically an hour or slightly more) make sure they are well-rested and consider a matinee instead of an evening performance. We attended an evening show (8 pm) and didn’t leave until just after 11 pm.
- RCP is hosting a sensory-friendly performance (its first such production) on Saturday, February 27! And on March 6, after the matinee show, RCP is hosting a master class for everyone to learn the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious dance! We have details on this special matinee and the master class.
- Make sure you’re going to the right Reston Community Center. This is the one on Colts Neck Road at Hunter Woods Village Plaza (NOT the Reston Community Center at Lake Anne Plaza).
- Free parking is available at Hunter Woods Village Plaza; to get to the theatre itself you just take a short walk behind Ledo Pizza and Buffalo Wild Wings.
- If you need to drop someone off at the theatre, you can do so by driving toward the Hunter Woods Fellowship House; this will get you to a circular driveway just outside the theatre (you just can’t park there).
- There are plenty of places to eat within walking distance of the theatre.
- RCP has snacks (home-baked treats, popcorn, and drinks) available during intermission available for a donation of your choosing; they also have Girl Scout cookies for sale.
Want to enjoy a “family date night?” We’re giving one a set of four tickets ($100 value) to one lucky subscriber! The winner gets four tickets to the show Friday evening, Feb. 26! To enter:
1. Sign up for our free newsletter at this link (if you’ve not yet done so).
2. Leave a comment below (about the show, or just to let us know you entered).
Enter by noon on Thursday, February 25, 2016. The winner will be picked immediately after that and notified by email. The winner must reply within 24 hours to claim the prize; failure to do so risks forfeiture. Tickets will be held at Will Call; the winner will get the CD at the show. Contestants agree to abide by our giveaway terms and conditions.
Photos by Traci J. Brooks Studios; used with permission