Quad-City Music Guild’s “Mary Poppins” is an absolutely beautiful spectacle, with wonderful costuming and sets, sprightly choreography and solid performances, but it’s also a bit of a bore.
The show has its highlights, especially within the lighting and staging setups, but it also drags, and features characters and situations which aren’t especially thrilling or relatable. The truth is, “Poppins” isn’t all pop; it’s plagued by too much fizzle between the highlights.
Set in Victorian London, 1910, “Poppins” is about the Banks family — father George (Rob Keech) is a banker, mother Winifred (Sheri Olson) is an aspiring actress who is confined to a decorative role at home, and the two children, Jane (Molly Ahern) and Michael (Brennan Hampton), are suitably precocious. The family is having a hard time finding a regular nanny. (I hate when that happens.) Into the breach flies Mary Poppins (Heather Herkelman), whose prim-yet-buoyant spirit and lighthearted ways prove the panacea for their rich people woes.
If this was the entire plot thrust the show would work much better than it does. But “Poppins” routinely takes various detours with secondary characters which detract from the main plotline and just drag out the momentum of the show. But that said, the primary characters, with the exception of the titular heroine, aren’t all that interesting and their transformations are fairly basic. Snooze.
What’s more exciting is the way Music Guild has polished up the banality. The costumes by Cindy Monroe are terrific, and the color, light and pattern schemes between the costumes and the sumptuous set, designed by director and scenic designer Harold Truitt, are fantastic. The scene where Poppins finally flies is less impressive for her taking flight than it is for the gorgeous set design and lighting which presents her in striking silhouette. The choreography by Suzie Adams is also very nicely handled and the backup performers and dancers set impressive scenes.
To be fair, the audience on the opening Saturday night I saw the show was more enthusiastic about it than I was, rewarding it with a partial standing ovation. And indeed, in terms of presentation, particularly in regard to costuming, lighting and sets, that adulation was well-deserved. But while I admired those spoonfuls of sugar, they didn’t entirely make the medicine go down for me. I recommend the show for “Poppins” fans and the hardcore Music Guild crowd, but the general public may not find it quite as supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.