By Joe Bailey, Staff Writer–
On Friday, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre kicked off its month-long run of Disney’s Mary Poppins, set to run from Nov. 22 until Dec. 22.
This local adaptation of the classic film is gracing the city. The Tony Award-nominated spin on the tale, originally produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Walt Disney Theatrical, has been performed across the globe from Broadway to London.
This particular production certainly does the script justice, with the numerous lively musical numbers never missing a beat. Confidently sung and precisely choreographed, pieces like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step in Time even rivaled the movie versions.
In a short speech before the first show, Chattanooga Theatre Centre Executive Director Todd Olson let the audience know that the cast was comprised entirely of volunteers.
This kind of participation is standard at the Theatre Centre, a nonprofit organization with its sights set on enriching the Chattanooga community by creating opportunities for theatrical involvement.
The cast of volunteers was made up of at least 55 people, with many of the actors being part of the youth ensemble. As a result, the larger-scale musical performances, such as the aforementioned ones, were more grand and ambitious than one might expect of a stage show.
The moment the famous nanny herself came floating down, umbrella in hand, suspended by wires, into a lineup of harmonizing penguins, this ambition and skillful execution became undeniable.
Even with a stellar cast, the constraints of the stage meant that a few compromises had to be made on the production side of things. Walls of the set were double-sided, meaning they could be swiveled around during scene transitions. This saved time and space, and allowed the story to flow smoothly from one location to the next.
Despite the limitations of the space, impressive and intricate sequences were abundant. Be it when the stoot-covered chimney sweeps from Step in Time transitioned seamlessly from the roof to the house’s interior, or when Mary Poppins and the children magically cleaned a kitchen in the middle of a song, the show always had something imaginative to show off.
The performance was a lengthy two acts and provided a 15 minute intermission during which audience members were encouraged to explore the well decorated lobby. A snack buffet in the middle of the room was made even more eye catching by the black umbrellas hanging from the chandelier above it.
Mary Poppins has become something of a modern myth, spreading a message concerned with the significance of childhood. The character seems to embody a perfect balance between adult sensibilities and youthful imagination.
With a cast which is appropriately split along these lines, the show succeeds, maybe unintentionally, on a level beyond the quality of the production. In a statement that might embody this dichotomy better than any other, the famous nanny says: “First of all, I would like to make one thing clear: I never explain anything.”