July 26, 2015
by James Morehead
Dublin High School’s new Center for Performing Arts and Education welcomed a full house of theatre lovers last night for the opening performance of the StarStruck Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins. The production runs Friday-Sunday each weekend through August 9. Tickets are on sale now by calling the StarStruck box office: 510-659-1319, or ordering online.
The Disney stage version of Mary Poppins, which premiered in the U.K. in 2004, expanded on the classic movie musical with additional songs. For those most familiar with the movie, the added music (by George Stiles and Anthony Drew) complements the brilliance of the Sherman Brothers original score. Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman are responsible for some of the most unforgettable melodies of the 20th century, including “It’s a Small, Small World”, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, “Winnie the Pooh” and of course Mary Poppins classics including “Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)”, “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.
Given the extraordinary Sherman Brothers score, and the beloved film featuring the debut on-screen performance of Julie Andrews, mounting a production of Mary Poppins comes with considerable risk. Can a stage production capture the movie magic of Mary Poppins? Can the actress performing Mary Poppins step out of Julie Andrews’ long shadow? The good news for the StarStruck production is a practically perfect “yes”. From the strong vocal performances, led by Callie Garrett as Mary Poppins (a recent Simpson University graduate with a B.A. in Music), to the richly colorful costumes, fanciful set design and even performers flying on wires, Mary Poppins was a feast for the eyes and ears.
But the soul of Mary Poppins is Mr. Banks, captured beautifully by Grant Ewing. Mr. Banks, consistent with his name, believes a family should run with the efficiency of a bank, cold and free of emotion. Mr. Banks, his children Michael (10 year old Gabriel Lew) and Jane (4th grader Allayna Slate), and wife Winifred (Julia Brunelli), have their lives transformed by Mary Poppins. The StarStruck production was very effective in making the 500-seat Dublin theatre intimate at key points in the performance through simplified staging and lighting.
The most intimate moments were complemented by wonderful ensemble numbers with “Step in Time” being the highlight of the evening. The extended number was intricate in setting, with the stage transforming multiple times as the chimney sweeps tapped across the rooftops of London. The audience responded with a lengthy, spontaneous ovation one would typically expect during curtain calls. “Step in Time”, with credit to director/choreographer Jeanne Batacan-Harper, is alone worth the price of admission.
A successful musical depends not just on a strong score and vocal performances, but also on the orchestra’s ability to create a solid musical foundation. Hidden from sight, the Mary Poppins pit orchestra, led by conductor Nancy Godfrey, was tight all evening.
So while on paper the StarStruck Theatre is a company mostly comprised of young adults and amateurs, the production was nothing less than professional and is highly recommended. For theatre-hungry Tri-Valley residents, Mary Poppins is a welcome treat.
- Dublin High School Center for Performing Arts and Education, 8151 Village Parkway, Dublin, CA 94568 (http://starstrucktheatre.org/buy-tickets/directions-to-theatre/ for map and directions)
- $22-28. Group discounts available for groups of 8 or more. Call Box Office: (510) 659-1319.
- Sat. July 25 @ 8 pm – Opening Night / Alumni Reunion
- Sun. July 26 @ 3 pm – SuperStar Donor Reception (after performance)
- Fri. July 31 @ 8 pm – Family Discount Night / Talk Back with Actors
- Sat. Aug. 1 @ 8 pm – Photos with the cast
- Sun. Aug. 2 @ 3 pm – Dress up as your favorite Mary Poppins character
- Fri. Aug. 7 @ 8 pm – ASL interpreted performance
- Sat. Aug. 8 @ 8 pm – StarStruck 20th Anniversary Giveaway Night
- Sun. Aug. 9 @ 3 pm – Dress up as your favorite Mary Poppins character
- Producer and Artistic Director: Lori A. Stokes
- Music and Vocal Director: Nancy Godfrey
- Director/Choreographer: Jeanne Batacan-Harper
- Assistant Choreographer: Daniel J. Harper
- Stage Manager: Anthony Wickizer
- Assistant Stage Manager: Molly O’Donnell
- Lighting Designer: Ryan Willer
- Set Design and Scenic Artist: Stephen C. Wathen
- Costume Designer: Diane Scherbarth
- Properties Designer: Cat McConnell
- Sound Designer: Adam Fresquez
- Master Carpenter: Mark Aragon
- Music and lyrics by the Academy Award-winning Sherman Brothers Robert and Richard (with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe) and a script by Julian Fellowes
Established in 1995, Fremont-based StarStruck Theatre is a non-profit organization dedicated to nurturing the talents and lifelong love of the performing arts among youth while entertaining the community with live musical theatre productions of uncompromising quality. Mainstage shows are presented in January and July/August, and after this summer, expect to return to the Smith Center at Ohlone College in Fremont.