Marry Poppins at Fair Oaks Theatre Festival

There’s something about this Mary.

There’s something about this Mary.

Photo courtesy of Fair Oaks Theatre Festival

Showtimes: 8 p.m. Fri-Sun (no show on July 29). Through August 5; $15-$18 Fri-Sat, $12 Sun; Veteran’s Memorial Amphitheatre, 7997 California Avenue in Fair Oaks; (916) 966-3693;
Rated 3.0

Most people know the story of Mary Poppins, the magical nanny who turns bad kids nice, from the 1964 Walt Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, or (for those who read) the stories of P.L. Travers.

The play, which is introduced by the chimney-sweep Bert (Alexander Greening), is set in Edwardian England (around the time of Downton Abbey) when the economy was tanking. The book is by Julian Fellowes, who also wrote Downton, but its Banks family is not exactly in the Crawley realm. George Banks (Jonathan Blum) works in a bank. His wife Winifred (Kimberly Colisch) is a former actress who is shunned by “all the right people” George wants to court. Their two obnoxious children, Jane and Michael (Manasa Bollapragada and Gideon Klapow, respectively) really need a nanny to take them in hand. Enter Mary Poppins (Katie Veale), umbrella and special suitcase in hand. Music, merriment and magic ensue.

Greening is outstanding as Bert, displaying the most pleasant lyrical voice. The other adults also possess good, strong voices—and Corey D. Winfield as Miss Andrew really sparks the second act when Mary’s away. There’s no “Spoonful of Sugar” in his repertoire!

This is the first full festival season without its late guiding light Bob Irvin, and his sly humor and wicked wit are missing in this very straight approach to a standard musical comedy.