There’s some­thing mag­i­cal about Mary

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ran­dall King

WPo­to­sky over­comes Mary’s ab­bre­vi­ated dra­matic curve through sheer joy of per­for­mance.

Tak­ing Potosky’s lead, this Rain­bow pro­duc­tion fires on all cylin­ders.

Go­ing by Thurs­day evening’s preview per­for­mance, di­rec­tor Ann Hodges has or­ches­trated a mad­den­ingly com­pli­cated and po­ten­tially chaotic pro­duc­tion and has it run­ning like clock­work.

That is not to say the play doesn’t have a puls­ing, or­ganic heart to it. Donna Fletcher (as the “Bird Lady”) and her heart­felt ren­di­tion of Feed the Birds lays to rest any no­tion this HEN you think about it, an iconic char­ac­ter who is “nearly per­fect in ev­ery way” must be a tough nut to crack from an act­ing stand­point.

So it is with Mary Pop­pins, the tit­u­lar en­chant­ing nanny who mag­i­cally pops into a house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, Lon­don, to fix what’s ail­ing an un­happy fam­ily.

Just about ev­ery­one else in this Dis­ney movie-turned-Broad­way-mu­si­cal has some kind of char­ac­ter arc. The blus­ter­ing pa­tri­arch Mr. Banks (Car­son Nat­trass) is obliged to con­sider whether his work ethic is ul­ti­mately dam­ag­ing to his fam­ily. His ex-ac­tress wife (Laura Olaf­son) comes to terms with the deeper im­pli­ca­tions of her role as Mrs. Banks. Even their mis­chievous chil­dren, Jane and Michael (charm­ingly played by Noah Luis and Je­nesa Lee), are taught to see be­yond ap­pear­ances.

Not Mary. She ex­its (mys­te­ri­ously) ex­actly as she en­ters (mys­te­ri­ously), con­sis­tently demon­strat­ing the same un­flap­pable poise through­out.

Tak­ing the role im­mor­tal­ized by Julie An­drews in the 1964 film, Win­nipeg ac­tress Paula Potosky absolutely nails it. Her flaw­lessly lilt­ing so­prano doesn’t hurt. Her stage pres­ence (aug­mented, ad­mit­tedly, by her aero­nau­ti­cal abil­ity to exit stage up) is com­mand­ing.

But in her per­for­mance, Potosky cap­tures the imag­i­na­tion by en­joy­ing the sheer con­tra­dic­tory na­ture of Ms. Pop­pins, si­mul­ta­ne­ously mag­i­cal and mat­ter-of-fact.

This is a woman whose pos­ture and crisp dic­tion are all no-non­sense.

Then she sings Su­per­cal­ifrag­ilis­tic­ex­pi­ali­do­cious. is merely a cal­cu­lated Dis­ney mon­eyspin­ner.

In fact, this ren­di­tion is de­lib­er­ately dif­fer­ent from the film. Adapted by Ju­lian Fel­lowes ( Gos­ford Park, Down­ton Abbey) from both the film and the source nov­els by Pamela Lyn­don, the mu­si­cal takes en­joy­able lib­er­ties, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of an anti-Mary Pop­pins, the cruel and spite­ful nanny Mrs. An­drew (played with malev­o­lent glee by Rain­bow main­stay Brenda Gor­lick) whose song Brim­stone and Trea­cle is a cal­cu­lated counter-at­tack to A Spoon­ful of Sugar.

Nat­trass, an­other Rain­bow main­stay, makes the most of a plum role as the proper pater who en­ter­tain­ingly ex­plodes af­ter be­ing so tightly wound through much of the play.

As Bert, the jack-of-all-trades, Stephen Roberts func­tions more as a Greek cho­rus and less as Mary’s chaste love in­ter­est. While Roberts’s Cock­ney ac­cent hews closer to Dick Van Dyke than, say, Bob Hoskins, he com­pen­sates with some gym­nas­tic dance moves that call at­ten­tion to the first-rate chore­og­ra­phy by Marc Kimel­man, es­pe­cially in the rooftop show-stop­per Step in Time.

But above all, Mary Pop­pins is a show­case for the Broad­way-wor­thy Potosky. She soars. Some­times lit­er­ally.

SUP­PLIED PHOTO

From left, Noah Luis, Je­nesa Lee, Paula Potosky and Stephen Roberts are fir­ing on all cylin­ders in Rain­bow Stage’s pro­duc­tion of Mary Pop­pins.

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