“Anything is possible if you let it,” says Mary Poppins, the practically perfect nanny. After seeing High Street Arts Center’s inspired production of the beloved musical (onstage through Feb. 24), you’ll agree. Mary Poppins can indeed fly. Chimney sweeps dance across rooftops. Statues come to life. And it’s never too late to reclaim your sense of wonder. All you have to do is sit back, enjoy the show and let the magic happen.
Mary Poppins opens with Bert (the versatile Ezra Eells) perched high atop a balcony. From that moment on, the production soars. Quite literally, as Mary Poppins (the talented Randi Redman) glides into the lives of the Banks family, which is in need of her help. The children, Jane and Michael (Emerson West and Leo Helfrich), are unruly. (Jane and Michael are played on alternate nights by Mika Lynch and Skyler Ingram.) Mother Winifred (the endearing Courtney Potter) is beside herself, and father George (played well by Darrin Ingram) is lost in work and worry. With Mary Poppins on the job — parrot umbrella and bottomless carpet bag in hand — their lives take a magical turn that brings them back to what matters most.
Shawn Adams-Lanz skillfully directs the imaginative and elaborate production based on the classic Walt Disney film and the Mary Poppins stories by P.L. Travers. It features original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and book by Julian Fellowes (who also created Downton Abbey). New songs and additional music and lyrics are by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
Mary Poppins has quite a pedigree. But here, she belongs to the cast and crew of High Street Arts Center. The big, wonderful cast commands the stage — and sometimes the aisles — with whole-hearted exuberance. Highlights include the many musical numbers, especially “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Step in Time” and “Jolly Holiday,” all of which are brightly choreographed by Julie Hackett and Renee Delgado.
Aside from the central cast, stand outs include Amie Woolweber as Mrs. Corry (who does a nifty hand jive), Lyndon Apostol as Neleus (a great dancer) and Katie McTyre as Miss Andrew (perfectly menacing as “the holy terror”). Rounding out the cast are the terrific Tami Keaton, Noah Terry, Erin Fagundes, Lauren Rachel, DJ Brady, Patrick Rogers, Andrew Nunez, Michael Kronenberg and Brenda White. The delightful ensemble features Mary Alice Brady, Nicholas Davila, Zoe Fagundes, Whitney Grubb, Kira Reed, Annie Sherman and Claudia Stone Sheppard.
Scott Armstrong and Sierra Armstrong designed the sets that run the gamut from the Banks’ home and the rooftops of London to a make-believe shop. Each set is full of surprises that give the production a sparkle of magic. Kudos also go to lighting designer Patrick Duffy and costume designer Barbara Mazeika, both of whom are at the top of their respective games.
One of the best things about Mary Poppins is that while it is uplifting and bright, it doesn’t shy away from the dark. The High Street production fully embraces this. The slightly menacing dance of ill-treated toys and the terrible Miss Andrew are evidence of that. We are swept up in every minute of the children’s adventure, the wonder of which is matched by the delight we share in Mr. Banks’ reawakening. (Well done, Mr. Ingram.) Mary Poppins reminds us that childhood slips away only if we let it.
Mary Poppins through Feb. 24 at High Street Arts Center, 45 East High Street, Moorpark. For tickets and more information, call 805-529-8700 or visit highstreetartscenter.com.