Guest Column: You can find magic in ACT’s “Mary Poppins”

Published 10:29 pm Friday, July 14, 2017

Stage Right by Cindy Fjermestad

There is magic in the world and anything can happen if you let it! Nanny Mary Poppins teaches the Banks children to discover magic, and audiences will find magic as well in the wonderful production of “Mary Poppins, the Broadway Musical” now playing at Albert Lea Community Theatre. 

Co-directors Glen Parsons and Diane Heaney, with choreographer Joyce Matthies, have highlighted the acting, singing and dancing talents of a large cast from Albert Lea and the surrounding area! The stage play presents all of the memorable songs from the movie version of “Mary Poppins,” and there are several beautifully choreographed group numbers that audience members are sure to enjoy. 

The role of Mary Poppins brings music teacher Rebecca Griffin (Nellie Forbush in South Pacific) back to the Albert Lea stage. She has a lovely voice, and she ably carries every aspect of her role. She is just the right combination of fun and dazzle necessary to convince the Banks children to see another view, an element of fun in everything that’s to be done! Mary Poppins also imparts wisdom as the children meet other characters in the story.

Cindy Fjermestad

Mary Poppins and the children are often joined by Bert the chimney sweep. In this role, the charming Luke Zacharias adds a touch of happiness and friendship to the story; a lowly chimney sweep who sees the whole city and the stars.

Theater-goers will be impressed by the play’s two young main characters; Claire Levine and Joshua Brooks as Jane and Michael Banks are poised beyond their years!  The two sing, dance and evolve as characters throughout the play. Their confident performances belie their young ages.

The story revolves around the family of bank employee George Banks, his wife, Winifred, and their two precocious children, Jane and Michael.  Patrick Menning, a veteran Albert Lea actor, plays George Banks, a man who believes nannies should have strict standards, though he fearfully recalls his stern nanny, Miss Andrew. George and Winifred strive to follow the expectations of society in their home and in raising their children, but a series of upsets at home and at work bring the magical Mary Poppins to their home. Menning is excellent as a frustrated, distant father and husband, and Stephanie Thigpen is perfect as his loving wife, Winifred. The two have clear, strong voices and carry their main roles well.

Overall, the entire cast is talented and well rehearsed, and they are obviously enjoying their performance. Diane Heaney is chilling as nanny Miss Andrew, Connie Dianda is flamboyant as Mrs. Corry, and Sue Wiersma’s song to feed the birds will touch your heart. 

The efforts and talents of those behind the curtain are also worthy of note. The beautiful set designed by Steve Kinney is versatile and easily changed; no small feat in a play with 26 scenes! The costume design team led by Rosalie Truax met and exceeded every challenge: costuming a cadre of dusty chimney sweeps, designing the lovely dresses and suits worn by Mrs. Banks and Mary Poppins, and creating statues that dance.  And what would a musical be without music? Music director Barb Lang and a group of local musicians enliven every performance. Be sure to note the names of the many invaluable people who support the cast in this production!

“Mary Poppins” at ACT runs through Saturday, July 22, but tickets are going fast. Don’t miss a chance to enjoy this delightful production that ends ACT’s 52nd season!

Cindy Fjermestad is an Albert Lea resident.