Slice of Life

‘Mary Poppins’ provides heartwarming take on Syracuse Stage holiday show

Courtesy of Michael Davis.

Sofia Benderski, Emily Brockway, and Rueby Holsopple in the Syracuse Stage/Department of Drama production of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s "Mary Poppins."

Michael Banks grabbed the measuring tape and squinted own at the words.

“Practically perfect.”

Mary Poppins was practically perfect for the Banks family, flying into their lives by umbrella and bringing the family back together before zooming out again.

The musical rendition of P.L. Travers “Mary Poppins” opened at the Syracuse Stage/SU Drama Complex Friday to a nearly sold out audience of all ages. A high-energy classic, the musical borrowed music and themes from the Disney classic.

The story of Mary Poppins is about the Banks family, that live on Cherry Tree Lane in England. The two children, Michael and Jane have been terrorizing nannies for years, causing every one of them to quit. Their parents, George and Winifred are getting desperate when Mary Poppins flies in, literally, on the handle of her black umbrella.

George Banks is the pillar of seriousness, working at the local bank. But his life is quickly disrupted by Mary’s unorthodox nannying methods — playing games and singing and dancing. Although he said he is not without a sense of humor, his son quipped back “aren’t you daddy?”

Quick-paced dialogue was juxtaposed with floating melodies for a lot of the songs. The set matched George’s outlook on life, straight lines lit with a gentle bluish hue. The audience was enthralled from the moment Mary Poppins pulled a hat stand out other iconic, bottomless bag, until she danced away over the chimney tops.

Audience members ranged from very young children, to a 100-year-old man who helped found the Syracuse Stage. Following the performance, managing director of the stage Jill Anderson was approached by a young boy who wanted to know how the bag worked. Anderson laughed and said she was going to take the child backstage and quickly show him how the system worked.

Magic, or so it appeared, lit up the show and left audience members astounded. One of the most well-received moments of the production was during the classic chimney sweep song, “Step in time.”

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Courtesy of Michael Davis

Burt, the narrator, leads a group of chimney sweeps in a tap dance across the rooftops, pulling Mary Poppins and the children into a kick line. The song culminates with Burt walking up the side of the stage, eventually flipping upside down and continuing to tap along the top of the proscenium.

Sydney Miller, a sophomore musical theater major, had never seen the movie, and was unfamiliar with the story before seeing the movie.

“It’s always interesting to see a holiday choice that isn’t revolved around Santa Claus or something,” Miller said. “Its exactly what should be touched upon at this time of year.”

Family was one of the biggest themes, a loud sigh was from the audience when the dysfunctional family was finally reunited, and Mr Banks gave his son a personalized kite to fly.

In between the touching moments between the two young children and Mary Poppins, there were plenty of laughs. Burt provided plenty of chuckles, and so did the goofy servant, Robertson, played by Cheech Manohar, a senior musical theater major.

Manohar said there were many moments that were “happy accidents,” discovered after making blunders in rehearsal. Although he said his favorite moment in the show was possibly one of the touching. At the end, Michael Banks turns to his nanny and says, “I love you Mary Poppins.”

Emily Brockway, dressed in a long skirt over a pair of sensible shoes, played Mary Poppins. She said her favorite part of the production process was hearing “Feed the birds,” for the first time with the orchestra and the whole cast. Although another favorite part was controlling a dog puppet, barking at passers-by.

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Courtesy of Michael Davis

Brockway said the children playing Jane and Michael were a joy to work with, and the message of the show is always important.

“It’s all about family,” Brockway said. “I mean we are a fractured nation with a lot of fractured families, and I think we could all use little healing right now, and our Mary does that.”

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