Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Mary Poppins
Spreckels Performing Arts Center

Also see Patrick's review of Clean House

Andi Luekens and Nicholas Sevier
No child—or adult, for that matter—should go through life without becoming acquainted with Mary Poppins, the uber-nanny originated in P.L. Travers's series of books, the 1964 Disney movie, or the stage musical, which premiered in London in 2004. The imperious yet subversive nature of the practically perfect in every way character has made her a staple in the lives of children for more than 80 years.

Likewise, no child should reach majority without having the opportunity to experience a musical on stage with a large cast wearing colorful costumes and singing and dancing designed to provoke a reaction of joy and wonder. The production of Mary Poppins currently playing at the Codding Theater in Rohnert Park is an opportunity for North Bay parents to kill two birds with one stone. Not a particularly good opportunity, but an opportunity nonetheless.

There are several good reasons to purchase tickets to this production. Foremost among these is the character of Mary herself: demanding, charming, mischievous, authoritarian yet suspicious of authority, stern but loving—children almost immediately fall in love with her.

If you go, your children will also enjoy the solid performances of Andi Luekens and Nicholas Sevier, who portray Jane and Michael, the two Banks children whom Mary is hired to care for. Both are energetic and charming, and sing delightfully well. As Mary, Heather Buck deserves to star in this show. As Jane and Michael request in the song "The Perfect Nanny," Heather is "very sweet and fairly pretty." A little more than fairly, I'd say. And, though I couldn't tell from my seat, I'm relatively certain she doesn't "smell of barley water." She can also sing and act and spread her charm to the back of the house. Dominic Williams also does a fine job as Bert, the jack-of-all-trades who is Mary's friend and companion through their (and the children's) many adventures.

But that's where the road ends. The sets—including the projected surfaces that are becoming director Gene Abravaya's signature—are once again clumsily designed. Though they are perfect for showing us Mary's magical powers, they're just so lazily done that they call attention to themselves in all the wrong ways. Why is that roof line cut off? Why do we have identical buildings on two sides of the stage? Why is the alignment off on almost every surface?

Now, add an overly loud, sometimes off-pitch orchestra to bland, uninspired choreography and lackluster direction, and you have a sad combination: mostly good performers in a mostly bad show.

Mary Poppins runs through May 24, 2015, at the Codding Theater in the Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. Shows are Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $16-$26 and are available by calling the box office at 707-588-3400. Box office hours are 12-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The box office is also open one hour before showtime. Additional information is available at

Photo: Eric Chazankin

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Patrick Thomas

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