No theatrical surface is off limits for a Jonathan Alder High School musical.
Last year they traveled under the sea for “The Little Mermaid.”
This year, they reach new heights as they dance on the rooftops and beyond with their presentation of “Mary Poppins.”
Yet again, Director Anne Gorman has placed a challenge before her young thespians, and as usual, they have responded in grand fashion.
This beloved, magical story will be on stage at the high school Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for children ages 10 and younger as well as senior citizens ages 65 and older. A Sunday matinee begins at 3 p.m. All tickets are $8.
Hunter Larison is one of the gems of the show in the title role. Prim and proper (but with slight twinkle of mischievousness), Larison is “spit spot” on with her interpretation of the iconic nanny who can bring innermost thoughts to life. With a pleasant singing voice and mature enthusiasm in such songs as “Practically Perfect,” Larison shines.
Joining her as the other gem is Hunter Eudaily as nimble chimney sweep Bert. As the show’s storyteller of sorts, Eudaily uses a charming Cockney accent and engaging stage presence to lead the audience through the magical journey.
As the two most delightful people in the show, youngsters Emily Wheelbarger and Lincoln Wilson light up the stage as Jane and Michael Banks, respectively. Rambunctious, but cute, the pair are sure to be crowd favorites with their energy and great expressions.
Grayson Abend does fine as George Banks, the stern banker who struggles to redefine himself as he realizes he missed out on his childhood and better reprioritize before he misses out on his children’s as well.
A top-notch dramatic performance is turned in by Sydney Winslow as Winifred, the wife of George and mother of Jane and Michael. She lets her character’s guard down to show the raw emotion of a loving mother and especially as a worried spouse trying to help the man she loves.
Many supporting characters put in memorable performances including Aubrey Wright as the edgy sarcastic housekeeper Mrs. Brill, Andrew Gingerich as the well-meaning butler Robertson Ay and Gabby Pollom as the lively Mrs. Corry.
Deserving special mention in some all-too-brief roles are a trio of fine actors. Nehemiah Haines is magically-statuesque as Neleus, Emma Hawkins is charismatically-sinister as Miss Andrew and Emma McLain provides perhaps the show’s best musical moment as the Bird Woman in her passionate rendition of “Feed the Birds.”
As is always true of a Gorman-led show, the ensemble drives the bus of success. Whether they are pleasant park dwellers, stuffy bank employees, flexible gingerbread shop workers, or come-to-life toys, they rise to the occasion.
With a plethora of Eudaily-led tap dancing chimney sweeps, the Scott Jones choreographed “Step In Time” will leave the audience asking for more. The dancing skills show again in a variety of numbers, including with prancing statues in “Jolly Holiday.”
Speaking of statues, the costumes and make up of many other unique characters add to the show’s appeal. As usual, the spectacular Jones-designed sets and talented Gorman-led orchestra complete the picture.
If you are looking for a cure for the Spring blahs, “Mary Poppins” is surely the right medicine to find yourself humming the songs all the way home.
Jeff Gates has reviewed high school/community musicals/dramas for 20 years for The Advocate. He is a founder of Madison County Arts Council and member of the London City Schools Fine Arts Hall of Fame.
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