By Christina Lynn Reszel
Heartfelt and full of love, Mary Poppins at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre is a wonderful way to begin or continue the holiday season.
From the moment the orchestra begins its overture, a warm feeling fills the stomachs of the audience members. It is clear something wonderful is about to happen… And it does.
Based on P.L. Travers’ stories and immortalized by Walt Disney, Mary Poppins tells the tale of a magical nanny who comes into London’s Banks family household to teach children Jane and Michael. As the kids learn proper behavior (with some fun along the way) Mary’s lessons extend to the adults, helping them live their values and allowing the whole family become one. A complete plot summary may be read here.
When the program lists multi-Jeff winner Rachel Rockwell as director, it’s a near guarantee the production will be great. Rockwell’s Mary Poppins is no exception. She presents story and characters in such a clear-cut way, it brings this classic tale to eye-popping life. That’s in no small part to Set Designer Kevin Depinet, who puts the audience in a picture frame throughout the whole show, peering into this very different world.
Critical to any production of this title is the talent of its leading lady. Emily Rhom embodies the character of the magical nanny. She is Mary Poppins. Her voice booms throughout the theatre as she sings the classic songs “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and more.
Rhom takes the audience under her wing as she does the Banks children in the story. Michael and Jane (Charlie Babbo and Peyton Shaffer on opening night) sing in perfect harmony as the kids transform from bratty to practically perfect. Jeff winner Cory Goodrich as Mrs. Banks takes control every time she steps on stage. Her voice radiates through the audience as she starts to assume growing responsibility for her life and family. From the beginning, it is clear she is a powerful performer that matches what her character becomes.
Chimneysweep Burt, Matt Crowle, steps perfectly in time as he both narrates and becomes part of the story. His dance makes all eyes turn to him as his enthusiasm bursts from his face (and feet). George Banks, well played by Chicagoland favorite Michael Aaron Lindner, transforms from absent, sometime cruel, father to a loving husband and dad with more important reasons for living than just making money.
Truly, this entire cast is first rate.
And as they take the audience through Travers’ well-known story, patrons are captivated by Theresa Ham‘s gorgeous costumes that fit exactly what one might expect from Mary Poppins. Each piece of choreography, also created by Rockwell, exudes positivity that helps make life full.
Many may believe Mary Poppins is just for a sit-back-and-enjoy good time, rather than being a show that makes one think. For this production, it is quite the contrary.
Is Mary Poppins magical? Is she even real? If Burt knows her already, does that make him magical too? Where does she come from? Why can she fly? What are the priorities in life that need to be well lived?
There are so many questions. More than just these. It is up to each person to form his or her own answers.
“Mary Poppins” performs through Jan. 4 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 East Galena Blvd., Aurora. Evening shows are performed Wed. through Sun. Matinees are performed Wed., Sat. and Sun. Tickets ($41 to $54) and information are available at www.ParamountAurora.com, by calling (630) 896-6666 or visiting the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 2 hours prior to evening performances.