Colleen Johnson Shines as “Practically Perfect” Mary Poppins

MaryPoppins“Mary Poppins” is great charmer at Midtown Arts Center

Reviewed by Tom Jones, June 20, 2016

Colleen Johnson is a wonder. From the moment she arrives on stage, umbrella on her arm, shoes pointing outward from the heels, she is completely in charge. I first became enchanted by Johnson when she dashed from the MAC stage through an exterior exit as the frenzied Fiona in “Shrek.” This time around she arrives at the Banks household on London’s Cherry Tree Lane after the recent Nanny has departed in great haste. She immediately announces that she is “Practically Perfect in every way!” And we believe her. She has great (pointed) shoes to fill. Julie Andrews received the Academy Award as Best Actress for the 1964 movie – which has become one of the most-loved movies of all time.

Colleen Johnson and Vince Wingerter as Mary Poppins and Bert. Photo credit: Christina Gressinau.
Colleen Johnson and Vince Wingerter as Mary Poppins and Bert. Photo credit: Christina Gressianu.

Johnson stars in a cast that has many leading characters playing to perfection. John Sosna is in great form as the demanding George Banks, a banker who appears to have no time for his children. He requires that they be under the supervision of an organized and strict Nanny, just like the supervision he received as a child. Sosna has super stage presence and an excellent voice. He becomes the stern Mr. Banks, with little obvious care for his children. Realizing that there is some hidden humanity in her husband is Lisa Kay Carter, convincing as Mrs. Banks. Vince Wingerter is new to MAC, and is a winner — with his impressive voice and athletic dancing skills — as Bert, the chimney sweep. Johnson and Wingerter are both exceptional playing the roles of longtime London friends, and appear to enjoying every moment of the show.

MIdtown Arts Mary Poppins Cast Christina Gressianu.
MIdtown Arts Mary Poppins Cast Christina Gressianu.

The four comprise quite a team which has terrific support from the entire cast. I saw Lucas Moir and Haley Bart as the Banks children. They alternate in these roles with Elijah Walker Brandt and Rylee Vogel. Cynthia Vaughn has double-duty playing the heart-warming Bird Woman on the steps of St. Paul’s early in the show, and turning up as an outrageous possible replacement Nanny later on. The entire ensemble provides all kinds of musical magic. Several turn up in double (or multiple) roles. Taylor Marin from MAC’s “The Fantasticks” is back in fine singing and dancing form. The multi-talented Benjamin Roeling is on stage nearly non-stop, only out of sight when changing costumes and make-up for yet another character. I last saw him about eight years ago as the youthful boy courting the mayor’s daughter in “The Music Man” at The Candlelight. He has subsequently completed college and has toured the world as a performer, recently returning home to the area.

Early in the performance the cast announces the show is going to be a “Jolly Holiday,” and the fun music continues through “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” and Poppins can sing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” – even saying the title backwards! We learn that “Anything Can Happen” — if we let it.

This is an endearing story, with great lessons about what is important in life, and explaining that “magic” can happen almost anywhere. “Magic” best describes the “Step in Time” dance number late in Act II when virtually everyone in the cast dances flawlessly to near exhaustion! The direction and chorography are by Michael Lasris assisted by Charity Ruth Haskins, with “flying” by Troy Trinkle. Yes, Mary does fly. Briefly, but delightfully!

The production that I saw was late in starting, as a nearby automobile accident damaged a local electrical transformer. The theater needing to rely on alternate power just to keep the lights on. The air conditioning, sound effects, and lighting were eventually restored. The intermission was unusually long – probably due to getting everything back into final working order. The audience was very calm, and remained “practically enchanted” from the show’s beginning to end.

Scenery includes a super backdrop showing the various chimneys on the London skyline. Costumes are excellent. The entire show is great fun, with super performances, and a reminder to every potential pessimist that a “Spoonful of Sugar” can ultimately cure most ills.

Mary Poppins
Midtown Arts Center
3750 South Mason Street, Fort Collins, CO 80525
When: Through August 28, 2016
Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun at 6:00 p.m.
Matinees Saturday and Sunday at 12:00
For Tickets: 970/225-2555
www.midtownartscenter.com

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