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Friday, November 25, 2016

Olney's holiday hit, Merry 'Mary Poppins' extended thru Jan. 8

From left, Henry Mason is Michael, Patricia Hurley is Mary Poppins, Eileen Ward is the mother, Mrs. Banks, and Audrey Kilgore is Jane in Mary Poppins now at Olney Theatre Center/Photo by Stan Barouh

The Olney does it again:  Brings to the stage the audience so much fun and glee, you'll want to fly away with the star on a lighted kite, too.

Right here at the holidays, and if it were my family nearby, I know what I would say about making this a Christmas tradition: "Let's go to the Olney!"

Forget that Christmas shopping and wrapping, the paper, the labeling, the mailing:  "Where's the Scotch tape?"  "I can't find the scissors!" Do it all right here: Give theatre tickets. Help save the Earth. After all, experiences and memories are what counts. Not things, or as my aunt used to say "that collect dust."
Patricia Hurley in lavender on the front is Mary Poppins, and Rhett Guter is Bert and her dancing mate, whirling away in Mary Poppins with the cast at Olney Theatre Center/Photo by Stan Barouh

Dancers par extraordinaire (under the direction of Tara Jeanne Vallee), fabulous costumes which draw "oohs and ahhs," a production unto themselves (by Erik Teague), mostly non-stop action, and things that fly around all over the place, amidst a lot of cheer and color and song,  Mary Poppins is great entertainment for all ages.

Like Santa, Mary (Patricia Hurley) swoops in from the sky, dressed in her head-to-toe finery that you can visualize right here, wearing a radiant smile, and brimming with joy which she sprinkles on those around her, and to you, too!


Children always like to see children in a show, and Olney's Mary has two adorable ones, Jane (either Katharine Ford or Audrey Kilgore) and Michael (Henry Mason or Tyler Quentin Smallwood) confident, experienced, and able to make the audience laugh, despite it being hard to hear their lines up on the mezzanine level.  (We knew they were funny because we could hear those on the orchestra level hee-hawing a lot, but not to fear, mezzanine-level patrons, you've got a special treat coming when I held my breath and up, up, and away (?).)

Mary Poppins, straight from a fairy tale, drops in the Banks' household (what an appropriate surname!) to become the children's nanny whom Michael and Jane soon grow to adore (especially with her bag of tricks--how do they do that?) but circumstances cause her to leave, and (shudder) here comes the Wicked Witch of the West (Ms. Andrew, magnificently played by Valerie Leonard AKA Ms. Terrible ) to the Banks to perch as the next nanny, and perch she does, right down to her dark, drab  apparel, shrill, and magical disappearance.  (Ms. Hurley is practically perfect in her role, almost undone by the few moments onstage of Ms. Terrible, cast as the evil persona who must inhabit every show.  Or, what's a show without an antagonist or two?  We have to have somebody to detest.)

Karl Kippola is Mr. Banks, handsomely and realistically portrayed as the gruff but soft dad, quite concerned about his livelihood (the banking business, of course; you think with a name like Banks, he wouldn't be in the banking business?) his anticipated job loss, and how will he ever provide for his children's schooling, his family's household staff and expenses?  (An eternal dilemma faced by many heads of households.)

He is very busy with his business, thank you very much, to the neglect of his children who shall soon grow up and disappear, like Mary!  His wife (Eileen Ward) has a purposefully weak and submissive role (to omit her solo tune would strengthen the play), coddling her husband so unbelievably, I knew either she or I would soon become outraged and dash him in the head.  To be or not to be. 

Mary is accompanied by her good friend, Bert (Rhett Guter) who dances and chimney-sweeps his way through the show, from spot-on scenes (by Daniel Ettinger) which evolve from park to roof top to parlor, bedroom, bank, and more.

The songs will make you happy:  A Spoonful of Sugar and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious are two of the most familiar.  So much for baa-humbug.

The hidden nine-piece orchestra, under the direction of Timothy Splain, brings alive all the sights, sounds, and mischief of eternally smiling Mary and her troupe. 

What's not to like about Mary? Every home needs one. 
Mary Poppins is a musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film with original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.  Book by Julian Fellowes with new songs and music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.  OK before here. Co-created by Cameron Mackintosh.  Director Jason King Jones. Designers are Colin K. Bills, lighting, Jeffrey Dorfman, sound; Jim Steinmeyer, illusions consultant; Robert Ramirez, illustrations instructor, D2 Flying Effects, Matthew Pauli, puppets, Melissa Sibert, wigs; Nancy Krebs, dialect coach, John Keith Hall, production stage manager; Dennis A. Blackledge, production; Christopher Youstra, music theatre

The cast includes Kenneth Derby, James Frisby, Matt Greenfield, Lance E. Hayes, Amanda Kaplan, Ashleigh King, Julia Lancione, Benjamin Lurye, Emily Madden, Robert Mintz, Nurney, Dorea Schmidt, and Shawna Walker. 

What:  Mary Poppins by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

When:   Wednesday through Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. with weekend and Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. through Jan. 8 (extended!), 2017 with additional performances on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 2 p.m., and Friday, Dec. 30 at 2 p.m.


Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, 
Olney, MD 20832

How much: Tickets begin at $43 with discounts for seniors, groups, military, and students

Duration:  2.5 hours (it will fly by) with one intermission 

Refreshments:  Available and may be taken to seats

Parking:  Free and plentiful on-site

For more information: 301-924-4485


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