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Get Swept Away with Covedale’s “Mary Poppins”

Review by Doug Iden of Mary Poppins: Covedale Theatre

Matt Dentino and Alyssa Hostetler in "Mary Poppins"

Matt Dentino and Alyssa Hostetler in “Mary Poppins”

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. That is both the title of a song written by the Sherman Brothers for Disney’s classic movie Mary Poppins and an apt description of the current musical production of that show at the Covedale Theater. The Christmas season is well represented by this delightful holiday confection with an excellent cast headed by Matt Dentino as Bert and Alyssa Hostetler as Mary Poppins and a funny supporting turn by Brandon Bentley playing several characters. The show moves briskly with several large production numbers including “Jolly Holliday”, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step in Time” aided by choreography by Maggie Perrino. It was a family affair with Artistic Director Tim Perrino ably directing. The artistry included a flying Mary Poppins and a nimble Matt Dentino walking up the side of the stage and, while upside down, dancing across the top of the stage during the “Step in Time” number. The large production numbers were a nice throwback to yesterday’s musicals.

The sets were extraordinary, moving from the house on Cherry Tree Lane to the rooftops to the park with moveable sets and a large centerpiece that rotated several ways depending upon the scene. This is a large cast with multiple costumes ranging from banker’s suits to dingy chimneysweep outfits to colorful fairgoers togs and “concrete” monuments, all designed by Caren Young.

All of the familiar music from the beloved children’s story is included with additional songs written specifically for the stage show. The new songs are effective but pedestrian.   No one was leaving the theater humming the new songs. Veteran Music Director Steve Goers led the eight person band in a pleasant change from canned music.

Matt Dentino was sparkling as Bert virtually stealing every scene in which he appeared. Alyssa Hostetler captured Mary Poppins’ spunk, aggressiveness and loving nature and handled the songs well. The ensemble of singers and dancers were excellent with good supporting turns by Dave Wilson as George Banks, Sarah Viola as Winifred Banks and Peter Godsey and Lili Shires as the two Banks children.

On opening night, there was an excellent crowd including many youngsters.   If you introduce kids to live theater, they may become lifelong fans, which happened to me many moons ago.

My hat’s off to the Covedale Theater for presenting some very ambitious shows this season including this fall’s version of A Chorus Line and an upcoming production of Brigadoon. These plays, along with Mary Poppins, require extraordinary talent, excellent production values and a vigorous budget. The Covedale is clearly challenging itself and its audience to see these wonderful musicals.

Some quibbles include sound issues early in the show. The microphones were not working for several of the actors. Lighting issues (especially with spotlights) are endemic although there was some very effective and artistic use of light including one of several “Anything Can Happen” scenes.

So sweep on down to the Covedale Theater to enjoy Mary Poppins running through December 27.