For a holiday stage show to enjoy with the entire family, "Mary Poppins" is "practically perfect" in every way, with the only exception being there aren't any scenes with a Christmas tree.
"Practically Perfect" is one of the many fantastic song numbers showcased in the stage musical "Mary Poppins," here to charm audiences in a new production playing until Jan. 5, 2014 at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, in Lincolnshire, Ill.
It's directed with plenty of imagination by nine-time Jeff Award-winner Gary Griffin with some of the best "small space" choreography that I've seen in a long-time, compliments of Jeff Award nominee Alex Sanchez with the musical direction by Jeff Award-winner Michael Mahler.
Based on a blend of P.L. Travers' original book and the classic 1964 Walt Disney film of the same name, for this staging of "Mary Poppins," audiences of all ages enjoy an up and close stage encounter with a nanny who always knows best.
While the stars of this musical are the selection of favorite songs like "A Spoonful of Sugar," "Chim Chim Cher-ee," "Feed the Birds," and "Let's Go Fly a Kite" by the Academy Award-winning brothers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, the casting talents who bring all of these memorable characters to life are deserving of standing ovations. For anyone who has never been to the Marriott Theatre, this is a very small stage set up as a "theater-in-the-round" experience. All the more reason this cast and the choreography have to work harder than other runs.
Summer Naomi Smart earns her parrot-handled umbrella and generous applause for her personification of the title role. She stars opposite Bernie Yvon as Bert, who is in fine form, but still has some room left behind his wide smile to allow for more of his inner chimney sweep to emerge. Rod Thomas and Susan Moniz are great as the parents and Poppins' employers Mr. and Mrs. Banks. Additional fun comes from the silly yet savvy servants played by Paula Scrofano and Matthew Crowle. Rebecca Finnegan is fantastic switching bonnets and personas playing both the sweet and kind "bird-feeding lady" as well as the two rival nannies to Poppins' sweet demeanor.
Yes, Poppins' flight patterns are compromised by this theater space, as are the kite flying opportunities for this particular production, which runs two and a half hours. There's also a bit too much reliance on video projection and screens for my own personal scenery tastes. But just seeing this cast perform fastidious footwork feats such as in the song number "Step in Time" with flawless timing is the sugar to make any minor medicine moments be quickly forgotten.
Tickets are $40 to $55, excluding tax and handling fees, with some dinner options also available. Students 17 and younger and senior citizens 62 and older receive $5 off a full price theater ticket for Wednesday Matinee, Saturday Matinee, Sunday Matinee and Sunday Afternoon performances. FYI: (847) 634-0200 or MarriottTheatre.com.