Practically PerfectWednesday, November 13, 2013
Mrs Squeers stood at one of the desks, presiding over an immense basin of brimstone and treacle, of which delicious compound she administered a large instalment to each boy in succession: using for the purpose a common wooden spoon, which might have been originally manufactured for some gigantic top, and which widened every young gentleman's mouth considerably: they being all obliged, under heavy corporal penalties, to take in the whole of the bowl at a gasp.
Chapter 8 from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
My granddaughter Lauren Stewart, 11, and I attended the opening performance this Wednesday 13th of the Art Club’s
production (directed by Bill Millerd) of Mary Poppins at the Stanley Industrial
Alliance Stage. Thirty minutes before the show began she asked me to repeat after her a very long word. “Papi can you
say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ?” To me this was a complete non sequitur.
I saw no connection with us being comfortably seated in the busy lobby. Unable to respond adequately I said, “Lauren, Mississippi
is a very long word, can you spell it?”
The above has this one explanation. The closest I ever got to see the film Mary Poppins was my occasional viewing in 1961 of a few Dick Van Dyke shows on TV while I was studying in Austin, Texas. In fact three weeks ago when I had planned attending Mary Poppins I asked my wife Rosemary if Christopher Plummer had been in the original film. She corrected me and told me that was The Sound of Music, another film I have never seen.
I believe, then that I might have been the only person at Wednesday’s performance of Mary Poppins who knew nothing of it or of its connections to Lauren’s repetition of the nonsense word. I asked Lauren if Mary Poppins had elephants, cows or camels. She said that only horses. I asked her if Mary Poppins had a boy friend. Her answer was that it was impossible as she lived on a cloud and could fly. My statement that her boyfriend could also live on a cloud and know how to fly was ignored.
And so the two of us spent a most pleasant evening in which a big chunk of that pleasure came from my watching Lauren’s delight.
Since most of you who might be reading here at this point know more about Mary Poppins than this blogger, I will not waste time explaining the plot. I will not spend time praising the superb acting, the wonderful music played by the orchestra headed by Bruce Kellet or even mention Millerd’s just right direction.
But as a total neophyte to the books by P.L.Travers, the 1964 and or the Broadway musical I did notice a few things that especially caught my eye.
Contemporary films with perfect special effects can only be topped by even “more perfect” special effects which are so seamless that most children take them all for granted and instantly become bored. Not so with the special effects of this Mary Poppins. The wires are there to be seen and yet we all gasped somewhere towards the end when Mary Poppins (played by Sara-Jeanne Hosie and more of her later!) flies from the stage to the very back of the theatre. In the collapsing kitchen scene the chaos that is instantly corrected by Mary Poppins snapping her fingers is another delight and kudos to Chris Stolz who is listed in the program as Magic Consultant. Mary Poppins’s bottomless carpet bag is another pleasure. Everything except white rabbits seemed to be trapped inside.
All in all Mary Poppins at the Stanley is a perfect holiday play that should be full of delighted children.
And yet there is much more there for an adult with watchful eyes.
The first scene at the bank has a dance number that features some women wearing very tight (as in very tight) white shirts with black ties, that made me wonder what exactly was worn by women in Edwardian times (here around 1910). While Millerd intelligently axed the idea that Winifred Banks (Caitriona Murphy) being a suffragette, this dance number choreographed by Valerie Easton had me anticipating the sudden removal of tight shirts and the burning (perhaps?) of whatever exotic Edwardian underpinnings lay beneath. That other wonderful dance number, Step in Time almost convinced me that I should like tap dancing!
It is here that I must come clean and explain that after a 45 year marriage to my Rosemary it is clear to her that should an opening suddenly appear in which I could conceivably have an affair with Charlotte Rampling or Molly Parker I would leave her on the spot. Rosemary knows this. Statistically this is unlikely. I must now add another woman to that short list. And this woman is Sara-Jeanne Hosie. I wrote about her here and here. Her performance as Mary Poppins cemented this awareness. Perhaps it is all because of my recent viewing of Venus in Fur (Arts Club – Granville Stage) with Lindsey Angell. Suddenly Hosie showing off her shoes in that delightful song (dropped from the original movie) Practically Perfect, and noticing her business-like outfit with a “well fitting” blouse it seemed like Millerd and company have seen fit to give us a Mary Poppins to delight not only the children in the audience but adults, too!
When I found out that Sara-Jeanne Hosie had moved to Toronto I moped for weeks. It is nice to see her back if only for a while. We are lucky for it.
One last thing: Scott Walters as Bert was perfect and his accent was perfect, too. Van Dyke would agree.