Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Mary Poppins
The Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Rhett Guter, Henry Mason, Patricia Hurley,
and Audrey Kilgore

Photo by Stan Barouh
How old were you the first time you heard "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"? Audience reactions to the Olney Theatre Center's production of Mary Poppins may be affected by their memories of the classic 1964 Walt Disney film: the production is highly polished and totally professional, but a different experience from the movie.

P.L. Travers, who created the character of Mary Poppins, famously disliked how Walt Disney treated her character in his film adaptation (a conflict fictionalized in the 2013 Disney film Saving Mr. Banks). Years later, Travers gave producer Cameron Mackintosh the stage rights on the condition that the project not include anyone who worked on the movie. Julian Fellowes' book draws on Travers' original stories, incorporating unfamiliar characters and adventures with the familiar score by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, along with some less memorable additions by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Director Jason King Jones oversees a production that seems to move effortlessly, although the care and detail is evident. Daniel Ettinger's scenic design shifts from one view to the next as an exterior wall rises and falls, a staircase unit glides into and out of sight, and the rooftops of London in 1910 make periodic appearances. Colin K. Bills' lighting design echoes the moods of the characters: dyspeptic George Banks (Karl Kippola); his wife Winifred (Eileen Ward), a former actress frustrated by domesticity; their uncontrollable children Jane (Katharine Ford or Audrey Kilgore) and Michael (Henry Mason or Tyler Quentin Smallwood); and, of course, the unflappable Mary Poppins (Patricia Hurley), a woman who denies the existence of magic while taking the children on amazing adventures.

Hurley lives up to all expectations as she sings, dances with Bert the itinerant street artist and chimney sweep (endearing Rhett Guter), and guides Jane and Michael through a world where statues come to life, people can buy conversation in a candy store, and an army of chimney sweeps forms a precision dance team (the most exciting part of Tara Jeanne Vallee's choreography). And yes, she remains perfectly upright as she flies, with the assistance of D2 Flying Effects.

Kippola and Ward work to flesh out underwritten characters—George is determined to be a perfect provider while repressing his emotions; Winifred can't figure out housekeeping—while Valerie Leonard dominates her scenes as a rival governess, and Dorea Schmidt capably embodies both an outspoken servant and the kindly Bird Woman.

Olney Theatre Center
Mary Poppins
November 2nd, 2016 - January 1st, 2017
A musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film
Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellowes
New songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Co-created by Cameron Mackintosh
Mary Poppins: Patricia Hurley
Bert: Rhett Guter
George Banks: Karl Kippola
Winifred Banks: Eileen Ward
Jane Banks: Katharine Ford or Audrey Kilgore
Michael Banks: Henry Mason or Tyler Quentin Smallwood
Katie Nanna: Julia Lancione
Policeman: Matt Greenfield
Miss Lark: Valerie Leonard
Admiral Boom: Kenneth Derby
Mrs. Brill: Dorea Schmidt
Robertson Ay: Benjamin Lurye
Park Keeper: James Frisby
Neleus: Nurney
Bank Chairman: Kenneth Derby
Miss Smythe: Shawna Walker
Van Hussler: Matt Greenfield
Northbrook: James Frisby
Bird Woman: Dorea Schmidt
Mrs. Corry: Ashleigh King
Fannie: Emily Madden
Annie: Amanda Kaplan
Miss Andrew: Valerie Leonard
Ensemble: Kenneth Derby, James Frisby, Matt Greenfield, Lance E. Hayes, Amanda Kaplan, Ashleigh King, Julia Lancione, Valerie Leonard, Benjamin Lurye, Emily Madden, Robert Mintz, Nurney, Dorea Schmidt, Shawna Walker
Directed by Jason King Jones
Choreographer: Tara Jeanne Vallee
Music Director: Timothy Splain
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or

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