Family-favourite musical Mary Poppins warms the hearts of Toronto audiences at Young People’s Theatre
“I like how this is looking,” said my eight-year-old companion as we settled into seats for Mary Poppins at the Young People’s Theatre. “It looks fancy on the stage and I see musicians. Is there a lot of music and dancing in this show? I would love that.” When the orchestra swelled and the lights dimmed, they bounced happily in anticipation, which proved well-warranted – there was indeed a lot of excellent music and dancing, and we absolutely did love it.
Every year, Young People’s Theatre offers a fun, big-budget show that carries through the school break, capturing the visiting-grandparents market and many people excited to have a family outing. Mary Poppins does not disappoint. With splendid costumes by William Layton, Kerry Gage’s exciting choreography, and a general freshness, the Mary Poppins they’ve mounted is incredibly appealing. It also has a very diverse cast, continuing a YPT value that I have always appreciated so much – I could hear some kids from a nearby school expressing their audible glee and that several main characters were played by Black actors, including the always-excellent Vanessa Sears as an authoritative yet delightful Mary Poppins (a particular triumph considering that it was just two years ago she played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz with such adolescent verve and wonder).
The ensemble cast is excellent, and director Thom Allison (a Stratford perennial stalwart with a dab hand for an all-cast number) finds an absolute ton for them to do. Allison makes great use of acrobats, dancers, vocalists and generally fun humans; with a special shout-out to Jak Barradell, a remarkably springy individual and charming character actor rolled into one, and Starr Domingue with her fulsomely fabulous accents and characters. The themes of the story – that being present and connected with family and friends has greater value than money, and that a hard worker is a better bet than a slick schemer – provided great jumping off points for conversation between my 8-year-old as we took a walk after the show. We talked about parenting, servants, the English class system, word games and more. There are magical elements and plenty of surprise and delight, but nothing particularly scary – except Nanny Andrews, who strikes fear into the hearts of grown men but is far more a ridiculous caricature a la Miss Trunchbull – nicely played by Sarah Lynn Strange.
Here’s the thing about this Mary Poppins overall: it’s a crowd-pleaser. It’s a classic story, very nicely rendered, colorful and fast-paced enough for small children (5 and up, I’d say) but not so juvenile that teens or adults feel condescended to. The musical direction under Wayne Gwillim is robust and fully-fleshed out, with of course supremely exciting numbers like “A Spoonful of Sugar,” and “Supercalifragilistic.” I suppose a dedicated misanthrope or a disgruntled fifteen-year-old could grouse about this show, but they’d have to build the bridge to do it. For anyone else, this Mary Poppins is a great show and a good time and, no spoilers, but the eight-year-old definitely loved it.
- Mary Poppins is playing until January 6th, 2019 at Young People’s Theatre (165 Front Street East).
- Shows run Monday – Sunday at various times. See the website for the full performance schedule.
- Relaxed Performances are available. See here for details.
- Tickets range from $10-$34 +HST and can be purchased onlineor by calling the box office at 416-862-2222, ext. 2.
Photo of the cast by Cylla von Tiedemann