Raymore Peculiar High School
Submitted for publication to KC Star Online
PARK HILL'S MARY POPPINS IS PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY
With a magical nanny, a crew of dancing chimney sweepers, and two parents trying to restore order to their family, Park Hill High School brings a world of wonder to the stage with their production of MARY POPPINS.
Based on a combination of the original children's books by P. L. Travers and the iconic 1964 Disney movie, MARY POPPINS focuses on the strict Banks' family and their disobedient children as the new nanny teaches them the power of kindness and imagination. The original West End production premiered in 2004 and ran for over three years, and has since been performed across the world.
Leading the cast, Maddox Bane steals the show with his portrayal of Mary Poppins' slightly eccentric, jack-of-all-trades friend, Bert. Bane perfectly encompasses Bert's personality with his enthusiastic body language, and he maintains a high level of energy throughout every song and every dance. Not only is his vocal control stunning, he also masters the advanced choreography and performs it with ease. Alongside Bane, Ashtin Umstattd shines as the iconic Mary Poppins. Her proper posture yet kind facial expressions accurately depict her stern but kind teaching style. Umstattd commands the stage with her perfectly timed line delivery and an air of confidence.
Emma Andrews and Fin Pennington bring the magic to life with their impeccable portrayals of the children, Jane and Michael. Together they show May Poppins' effect on Jane and Michael as they transform from disobedient, ungrateful children to humble and generous. Andrews and Pennington's constant engagement and excitement draw the audience in, while their facial expressions and body language perfectly capture the children's wonder as they learn of Mary Poppins' magic. Throughout the show, the ensemble appears in numerous musical numbers, where they demonstrate mastery of complicated choreography and bring even more energy to the stage. The ensemble's engagement adds to the whimsicality of the show as they bounce around the stage.
The technical elements develop the setting to further bring the world of MARY POPPINS to life. Parker Bennett and Lauren Louk design detailed sets that accurately depict the Banks family's upper-class lifestyle. They expertly create sets with multiple uses to aide in the many scene changes in the show, and their painting decisions bring the audience back to the child-like nature of the show. The live orchestra adds to the fantasy with their flawless timing and amazing execution of the complex music.
With the numerous scene changes, there are a few struggles to fully transition from one set to another in an efficient time, but the orchestra does a remarkable job of entertaining the audience through these times. Occasionally, the performers' voices get lost in the orchestra, but they continue to tell the story with their body language and facial expressions when their lines cannot be heard. While the cast does a wonderful job of performing the magical scenes, they lack the same level of emotion in dramatic scenes. Though there are a few mistakes, they do not take away from the overall performance.
Park Hill High School's takes this iconic musical and makes it their own with their talented cast and impressive technical elements. When you see the musical, you too will say that Park Hill High School's MARY POPPINS is practically perfect in every way!
Harrisonville High School
Submitted for publication to The Pitch
PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY
Energetic children can be a difficult group to handle. With the pressures of work bearing on one's shoulders, it can be hard to properly raise them. However, all it takes is patience... and a little magic. Park Hill High School proudly presents MARY POPPINS, a story as sweet as "A Spoonful of Sugar".
Written by the critically acclaimed musical film duo Robert and Richard Sherman, with a book by Julian Fellowes, MARY POPPINS has received seven Tony nominations, including Best Musical. It follows the story of Mary Poppins, a jovial and lighthearted nanny who is capable of performing magic. When the behavior of Michael and Jane Banks repeatedly causes nannies to quit, Mary assigns herself to them to teach them to be kind and fun, but compassionate and caring.
Spiritedly opening the show is the happy-go-lucky narrator Bert, played by Maddox Bane. Bert's delightful and carefree attitude throughout the show is a breath of fresh air every time he enters the stage, bested only by his highly executed tap number. Working in tandem with Bert is the extraordinary Mary Poppins, portrayed by Ashtin Umstattd, whose energetic but properly reserved stage presence compliments well her gorgeous soprano vocals, a soft timbre so pleasant that it truly sounds magical.
Delivering some boldness to the performance is stressed father George Banks, characterized by Aidan Mazeitis. Banks speaks in a stern tone that announces loud and clear that he is a very busy man, an attitude that changes throughout the show as he presents a flow of heartfelt character development into a loving, attentive father. Allowing some comic relief to pair with the somberness is Skyler Weaver's portrayal of Neleus, a mischievous living statue. His hilariously sly movements and interactions as he tortures the poor park keeper in numerous scenes sends the audience into a fit of laughter without fail.
Adding an aura of mysticism and awe to the production is the beautiful set, designed by Parker Bennett and Lauren Louk. Resembling a life size dollhouse-esque structure, complete with folding walls on hinges, castors, usable doors (touched up to truly resemble a home), this set is wildly impressive in its compactness. Of course, completing the experience is the real-time and aptly named "Mary Poppins Pit Orchestra", with rhythm and notes so tight and tuneful that one could forget that the performance is live.
Throughout the night, a slip up or two on sound cues are vaguely noticeable, but are few and far in between, and overall do not take away from the experience in the slightest. There is also an occasional lull in energy during lengthy ensemble numbers; however, these instances are quickly resolved with a gusto that immediately forgives any perceivable lack in energy, leaving the audience clapping in time with the pure energy of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious".
It's not every day that you get to see magic right before your eyes, but of course, "Anything Can Happen". Good for all ages, entertaining and cheerful, this production is truly one to see. Full of wonderful vocals, high energy, real flying effects, and a heartwarming story, Park Hill High School's MARY POPPINS is "Practically Perfect" in every way.
Harrisonville High School
Submitted for publication to The Courier Tribune
PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY
Precision and order are all a father wants, unfortunately, children often have different ideas. They would rather strew chaos and rebellion throughout the house, terrorizing the help and making a mess. However, all of this is about to change when a fantastical force arrives at the porch steps of Cherry Tree Lane!
MARY POPPINS is a lovely story of a magical nanny who comes when she is needed and leaves when the wind changes. From walking statues to talking shops, Mary Poppins is known by all the whimsical and wacky characters who roam the streets of London. She is summoned to a little house on Cherry Tree Lane when an advertisement, written by two children, is tossed aside. From here, Mary Poppins teaches the children to respect their family as well as the citizens of London and that any dream can happen if you let it.
The flamboyant Bert, played by Maddox Bane, does a great job of spinning the story. Bane's voice is remarkable and a delight to listen to. During numbers such as "Jolly Holiday", "Step in Time", and many more, he takes control of the stage and makes it his own. Mary Poppins, played by Ashtin Umstattd, is a joy to watch. Her angelic vocals and extraordinary character make her quite memorable! The two portray excellent chemistry on stage and are adorable to watch. Emma Andrews and Fin Pennington, who play Jane and Michael, are exceptional young actors. Though they may only be in middle school, they exhibit professional acting. Their energy is always high, and they are also extremely impressive in the music department. They will both make phenomenal thespians when they enter high school.
The delightfully eccentric Mrs. Corry, played by Ella Sedlock, puts on a captivating performance. Her comical character is just what was needed during the opening to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Her colorful appearance is also aesthetically pleasing compared to the duller citizens of London. George and Winifred Banks, played by Aiden Mazeitis and Capri Runyan, give excellent performances and are able to really sell the pain each of them feels as husband and wife. Mazeitis is able to interpret his character development wonderfully, going from a cruel and unforgiving man to a caring husband and a loving father to his two children.
The technical aspects of this show were outstanding and almost hard to believe! When Mary Poppins is first brought into the house, she reveals an infinite bag. The scene is fantastic and surprising as she continues to pull out impossible items from within her purse. Another surprise was Mary Poppins's ability to fly. It was an exceptional way to end the first act and a delight to watch.
Of course, with a show as great as this one, applause is expected. However, a few actors didn't wait until after the thunderous cheering to say their lines, causing their voices to be swallowed by the praise. There was also an instance in "Feed the Birds" where a harmony fell flat. Besides these two hiccups, MARY POPPINS was practically perfect.
The performance as a whole was wonderfully executed and served as a lovely evening. MARY POPPINS is a production to remember and is sure to put a smile on the faces of anyone lucky enough to see it!