“Mary Poppins” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ November 24, 2014


Phoenix Theatre, Walton Stage Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Theatre’s “Mary Poppins” is a magical delight performed by a perfect cast including two local stars that carry the show with special aplomb.  There are spectacular visuals including carefully choreographed lush scenery that glides effortlessly into place, beautiful period attire, impressively focused lighting, and stunning special effects that includes much cast flying.

If you don’t buy your tickets immediately, there will be many disappointed young and old theatergoers once all the reviews hit and audience reaction gets around.  The show received one of the few genuinely deserved standing ovations I’ve ever attended on an opening night.

This “Mary Poppins” triumph rests with Phoenix Theatre’s brilliant artistic director Michael Barnard who staged this marvelous extravaganza and who turned this production into the first live version of “Mary Poppins” that entrances every theatergoer.  The original screen adaptation enchanted moviegoers and will always be a classic but the original 2005 stage production in London that later came to Broadway was ponderously overproduced causing the tender story of two neglected children, Jane and Michael Banks, to get lost in physical trappings that chugged into place tediously.  So the Banks children’s first positive experience with a nanny who understood them became secondary to annoyingly unnecessary diversions.

But at Phoenix Theatre the rich and wonderfully produced production never gets in the way of the charming story.  It appears that Phoenix Theatre broke this year’s budget with the splashy production but a remarkable cast fills every role with touching characterizations that make the story ingratiating.

Heading the cast are Trisha Hart Ditsworth as a warmly human but sternly disciplinarian Mary Poppins and Toby Yatso as the crafty chimney sweep Bert.  While the pairing of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the film couldn’t have been better, Ditsworth’s glisteningly sharp willed Mary and Yatso’s athletically miraculous Bert, charm their way into audience hearts.  But so many artful performances surround the stars including Shana Bousard’s touchingly sincere Mrs. Banks, Clay Sanderson’s initially stern and dour Mr. Banks that transforms into a loving father, Sally Jo Bannow’s funny Mrs. Brill, the Banks maid, Johanna Carlisle as the gruff Miss Andrew and the exuberant Mrs. Cory in the high stepping “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” musical number, Lucas Coatney in three small roles, and Christy Welty as the heartbreaking Bird Woman.  Isaac Speyer’s Michael and Katie Brown’s Jane are the best children performances I’ve ever seen locally.

Several huge production numbers dazzle as does the hugely talented ensemble and Alan Ruch’s spirited orchestra plays the score with distinction.  You will be delightfully entertained by this “Mary Poppins” that continues until December 28.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A