DUAL CRITICS REVIEW : MARY POPPINS “lively, charming, strongly cast, delightfully engineered, and engaging”

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The Orange Park Community Theatre (OPCT) opened Mary Poppins, the 2006 Tony Award winning musical, on September 9, 2016, which will run through October 2, 2016. The theatre is located at 2900 Moody Avenue in Orange Park, Florida. Tickets are selling fast. Call 904-276-2599 or visit www.opct.info for additional information.

Mary Poppins is based on the popular 1964 Disney film of the same name, which was adapted from an earlier series of children’s books by author P. L. Travers, and is a spectacular and family-friendly musical. Under the direction of Robert Houston and Connie Senkowski, the production is lively, charming, strongly cast, delightfully engineered, and engaging.

The story is that of an English nanny with magical powers (brilliantly portrayed by Michelle Nugent Munley, who has a marvelous voice), who appears at the home of George and Winifred Banks (played to perfection by Randall Thompkins and Tammy Jones), and announces she is accepting a position as a nanny for their children. George is a London banker overly absorbed in his work, while Winifred is overwhelmed with the demands of being a wife and mother. Mary teaches their two unruly children to improve their behavior and to enjoy life through a series of adventures and lessons and also succeeds in teaching the adults as well; being happy and cheerful only requires the proper attitude toward life. The son Michael is portrayed by Alexander White, his sister Jane by Louise Everett; both sing well and are terrific in their roles.

Michelle Nugent Munley and Will Cook in Orange Park Community Theatre (OPCT) "Mary Poppins"
Michelle Nugent Munley and Will Cook in Orange Park Community Theatre (OPCT) “Mary Poppins”

Audience members of all ages will find the story sparkles with entertainment and is filled with brightness and charm, along with magic tricks, special effects, and excellent choreography by Missy Losure. The characters are larger than life, with Bert (Will Cook) the whimsical chimney sweep who is a jack of all trades, Mrs. Brill (Jessica Harris) the hilarious housekeeper and cook, and Robertson Ay (Evan Bowen), a grumbling house servant. And then we have the tyrannical Miss Andrew, who was the  former nanny of George Banks, and is portrayed by Laura Adkison. Of note, Ms. Adkison and Ms. Munley have had careers that are remarkably alike. Both have been professional entertainers in dinner theatres, both currently make their living as music teachers, and both have young daughters who appear frequently on our local stages. Both Cecilia Adkison and Amelia Eileen Munley appear as members of the ensemble in this production.

Michelle Nugent Munley in Orange Park Community Theatre (OPCT) "Mary Poppins"
Michelle Nugent Munley in Orange Park Community Theatre (OPCT) “Mary Poppins”

The play has a total of twenty-six scenes. The many settings include the London home of the Banks family, a nursery, a park with live statues, the exterior of a bank office, a rooftop, and cathedral steps. Colorful costumes designed by Sandy Summerton are as British as anyone could possibly want. Thanks to Vocal Coach Sonia Lewis, the English accents of the entire cast are wonderful.

The three most popular songs from this show are in Act One and include “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and “Chim Chiminey.” The band tucked away backstage performed splendidly. The Musical Director was Brenda Cohn; band members were Charlie Mann (Piano), Nick Despres (Percussionist), Susan May (French Horn), and Heather Baerga (Flute/Clarinet).

Orange Park Community Theatre (OPCT) "Mary Poppins"
Orange Park Community Theatre (OPCT) “Mary Poppins”

The ensemble cast members in many varied roles included Aria Cicotelli, Brenda Cohn, Steve Cohn, Thomas DeBorde, Audrey Everett, Patty Everett, Mac Ganoe, Sara Green, Clare Hambleton, Shelly Hayes, Todd Henry, Autumn Henry, Emily Hutchison, Samantha Jenkins, Andi Johns, Annabel Jones, Anna King, Praniti Kudre, Stacey Letson, Vicki Lowe, Maria Masters, Robin Mclin, Bailey Myers, Jennifer O’Brien, Benjamin Scott, Trish Strain, Gannon Thomas, Al Villacampa, Kaira Villacampa,Alex Williams and Sharon Williams.

Additional Production Staff included: Producer – Jenifer Rochefort; Assistant Choreographers – Sara Green and Samantha Jenkins; Stage Manager – Greg Barnes; Assistant Stage Manager – Ashleigh Lowe; Properties -Scarlette Johnson and Pam Cook; Stage Crew – Debbie Stithem, Isabelle Scott, Vicki Lowe, and Aaron O’Brien; Lighting – Daniel Senkowski.

Thanks go to the Tom Nehl Fund of the Community Foundation for its contribution and to the many OPCT volunteers who made this ambitious production possible.


About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.