Scott Walters and Sara-Jeanne Hosie (photo by David Cooper)
Practically Adequate by Jay Catterson
Mary Poppins floats onto the Stanley Industrial Alliance stage as Arts Club Vancouver tries to tackle the hit Broadway musical about the whimsical flying nanny. But is Poppins "Practically Perfect" in every way? Not quite. As with many Arts Club productions, this show is predictably passable.
Technical aspect-wise, this show works. The set design by Alison Green was effective, despite the hissing of the hydraulics being noticeable whenever the main house set moved in and out. The high flying wire work was impressive for such a small theatre. Combined with Valerie Easton's thrilling choreography, the production numbers sizzle, in particular the Act Two chimney-sweep number "Step in Time" and its proscenium-strolling tap dance act. And the costumes by Sheila White were ravishingly gorgeous. However, the Stanley is in need of a better sound system, for the orchestra sounded hollow and tinny at times. Heck, if you are going to pump in the orchestra from a room in the back of the theatre, you need to give the music some oomph to evoke the feeling of live orchestration!
As for the cast? Well, they were adequate but I felt that Sara-Jeanne Hosie's Poppins was too terse most of the time. I felt that she needed to play up her loveable side and revel in her "perfect" (read: conceited) nanny ways a bit more. Quite frankly, I just didn't care about her. Bert, played by Scott Walters, acted the part well, but his lofty tenor was no match for those lower notes that he had to sing. Also most of the ensemble were a bit pitchy, not quite hitting their notes most of the time. But the true standouts of the cast were Warren Kimmel and Caitriona Murphy, who deliver some truly touching moments as parents George and Winifred Banks.
Overall this production delivers this Disney tuner with ambition, but the Stanley stage's shortcomings, mainly its small size and lack of a good sound system, prevent Poppins from soaring to lofty heights.