Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Rebecca's review of Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto
The story is substantially similar to the 1964 classic film starring Julie Andrews. Jane and Michael Banks do anything and everything they can think of to ditch their nanny and capture their parents' attention. When yet another nanny quits, father George laments the absence of his stern childhood caregiver while mother Winifred worries that no one is up to the task of caring for her children. Enter the enchanting and mysterious Mary Poppins. With uncanny insight, a trenchant attitude, and some magic powers, Mary Poppins gets to work setting things right in the Banks household.
Utterly charismatic and slightly acerbic, Hanna Gaffney is a phenomenal Mary Poppins. Even without amplification, her vocals are crisp and clear. Gaffney has excellent comic timing, but she never lets the humor overshadow the authentic emotional connection she forges with the Banks family. Jered McLenigan comes off as deeply misguided but ultimately lovable as George Banks. McLenigan has great chemistry with Deanna Gibson, who plays his wife Winifred. Gibson is frazzled but resolute in a way that makes Winifred wonderfully relatable. Sophie Aguilar is perfectly precocious as Jane, and Ollie Gregorio is cheeky but truly likable as Michael. Aguilar and Gregorio create a sense of authentic affection with their stage parents and Gaffney's Ms. Poppins. The production features a youth ensemble rotating in the roles of Jane and Michael Banks.
Scenic designer Ellen Moore includes some interesting sculptural elements in the set. There is a mesh or net backdrop reminiscent of rising smoke that makes the set feel dynamic while maintaining the production's simple aesthetic. That backdrop and the small but clever depictions of the rooftops of London create just the right atmosphere. Unfortunately, the stage can feel a bit cramped and the steep seating distances the audience from the performers. Costume designer Summer Lee Jack adds a really interesting and chronologically appropriate steampunk element to the production. I especially love the goggles that adorn Mary Poppins' hat and her leather corset with gold accents.
There are some problems with Alex Burns' sound design that are frustrating. The band is too close to the audience and drowns out some vocals. Even significant dialogue is sometimes hard to pick up because of the acoustic issues.
Fortunately, these flaws do not mar the charm of this winsome and unpretentious production. Bring the whole family to the Sedgwick Theatre and experience the wholesome magic of Mary Poppins for yourself.
Mary Poppins runs through December 31, 2023, at Quintessence Theatre Group, Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave., (Mt. Airy) Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit www.QTGrep.org or call 215-987-4450.