Suffield High School Aces Mary Poppins

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Photo by Lester Smith

Played by Olivia Grimard, center, Mary Poppins reassures the Banks children that their father has returned and the evil nanny has gone. Jane Banks was played by Abby Halasi-Kun, Michael by Bryan Tompkins.

Wouldn’t it be great if every dysfunctional family could be harmonized by a magical visitor like Mary Poppins? That’s what Julie Andrews as Mary did for the Banks family in the 1964 film, and this reviewer remembers Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews well in that film and still occasionally sings the music to himself. Now he may still sample “Just a Spoonful of Sugar” or “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” but he’ll be thinking of Olivia Grimard as Mary, whose voice in the SHS musical production was certainly outstanding. Perhaps even supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

The three performances of Mary Poppins in mid-March were replete with Mrs. Banks’ uncertainties in her wifely role, Mr. Banks’ repressive dissatisfaction as a banker, and their children’s calamitous misbehavior – all happily healed by Mary, the magical nanny. Julie Hart as Mrs. Banks and Ben Gregoriou as her repressed husband both carried those major roles well; the children were persuasively played by Abby Halasi-Kun and Bryan Tompkins. Abby’s dancing was particularly enjoyable, and Bryan conveyed just the right amount of impishness.

Among the entertaining characters who enriched this story were handyman/chimney sweep Bert, who provided some helpful narration and song, notably “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” Jack Flanagan, as Bert, is developing some of the excellent stage action so well mastered by his sister Caelie. Another stand-out performance was provided by Kelcy Ryan as the dictatorial nanny previously responsible for George Banks’ repression and later hired by the troubled couple in a last-ditch move to control their children. Her “Brimstone and Treacle” (sulfur and molasses) number, later reprised as a duet with Mary Poppins, was a highpoint of the show.

A scene in which park statues came to life was delightfully surprising, as the statues had been as motionless as manikins. A colorfully-detailed dream scene in which the children’s toys dance even included a ballerina. And two major dance numbers were great, including a chorus of black-garbed bank clerks and a multitude of enthusiastically tap-dancing chimney sweeps.

In what may have been a first for Suffield, cameo performances as the Banks family’s eccentric neighbor, Admiral Boom, were provided by adult school staff members: Assistant Principal Brendan Canny on Thursday night, Assistant Superintendent Brian Hendrickson on Friday, and science teacher Joe Grimard on Saturday.

Suffield’s Mary Poppins was directed by Stephanie Holland, with energetic musical direction by Mary DiRoberts, choreography by Kelly Blais, technical direction by Emma Kubetin and costumes and props by Lori Foss.

Several ingenious staging tricks of this performance included the kitchen disarray magically straightened, the kite actually flying and Mary Poppins’ impossibly capacious carpet bag. Unfortunately, stage limitations at SHS precluded Mary from soaring off in her final departure. A moving silhouette projected above the proscenium had to suffice.

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