Brittany Pierce-Caiazza’s Review of Mary Poppins

The Rhinebeck Theatre Society

Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck

November 16, 2018

            When mounting a show that features a legendary character such as Mary Poppins, one of the most beloved nannies to ever hit popular culture, the expectations are high. The Rhinebeck Theatre Society’s production of Mary Poppins, while enjoyable in many ways, needs to be taken with a spoonful of sugar, if only to increase the energy level.

This is the first production at any local theatre where I’ve seen the use of projections for background scenery. The illustrations designed by Jonathan Rowan are somewhat reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, yet completely appropriate for the lighthearted environment of Cherry Tree Lane. The physical scenery designed by Harley Putzer is completely endearing, and brings a truly fun element to the production. The technical mishaps (the projector powering up in Mr. Banks’ office, and the microphones picking up backstage conversations) were distracting, but kudos to whomever was running the projections for sticking with cast members if they went off track.

One would expect the title character to be the star of the show, but in this production, it is all about the supporting roles. The Banks family – Francine Ciccarelli as Mrs. Banks, John Remington as Mr. Banks, Elliette Shavelle as Jane, and Cedar Novak as Michael – are absolutely delightful. Novak, whether intentionally or inadvertently, is a master of comic timing. His delivery and deadpan reactions to other characters is perfect. As a family, all four are believable as a unit, and you feel as though they truly care for each other.

As Miss Andrew, Alex Heinen steals the show in her depiction of this most horrible nanny to ever “care” for children. She is perfectly evil, and what a voice! Special note to Jacob Anspach as Robertson Ay – he is truly a gem. He is committed to the character he created and his physical comedy rivals Dick van Dyke himself. And last, but not least, is the children’s ensemble (Abby Anspach, Margaux Epter, Harriet Luongo – so adorable as Willoughby the dog, James Mctague, Abby McEathron, Max Moughan – wonderful as Valentine, Eoin Selenis, and Taylor Snyder) – their “Playing the Game” lesson to Jane and Michael is both adorable and meaningful to the production.

In the title role is Kate Lori, and she does a passable job as Mary Poppins. As a lifelong Poppins fan, it seemed as though Lori's Mary was more strict and less encouraging and warm than other incarnations, but she is pleasant to listen to and brave enough to hang sideways off of the swing on which Mary arrives (albeit a bit too Cirque du Soleil for this production). Michael J. Frohnhoefer as Bert is perfectly enjoyable in his portrayal of everyone’s favorite chimney sweep/painter/any other profession he might come across. He looks the part and his accent is on point.

Generally speaking, this production is enjoyable, although lacking in energy and enthusiasm, especially in the larger ensemble numbers. One of the most memorable numbers is “Anything Can Happen” – you can tell the cast loved this number, they give it their all, and the audience responded in kind.

If you’re looking for a pleasant evening at the theatre, this is a good production to see, especially for the “special effects” and costumes. While it isn’t “Practically Perfect,” it is well done and is a great family show.

Mary Poppins runs through December 9th at the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck. Tickets and information are by calling the box office at 845-876-3080 or visiting    


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