Mary Poppins: What a Performance!


Credit: Ani Gregori Asadourian

The latest school play is about to become the talk of the school. Just in our little newspaper there’s several articles coming out about it, and every teacher and student I’ve spoken to had said they were planning on going. I wasn’t able to check, since the theater was packed to the brim. I could barely find my seat, never mind a single person in that mass of people. 

I’ll cut to the chase– it was brilliant. The Shaker Theater has come out of 2 straight years of Covid with guns blazing. I would’ve sworn there were professional actors on the stage with how adult-like they looked and sounded. JJ Razzano, playing Bert the chimney sweep, opened the play with swagger, swinging a sweeper between his arms and waltzing on stage with unbelievable confidence. Benson Jovel-Truong and Ansley Teal, playing George and Winifred Banks, seemingly stepped straight out of the Victorian Era, perfectly fulfilling their roles as frustrated parents. Sarah Biazon and Mark Cannistraci, playing Jane and Michael Banks, scurrying behind Mary Poppins as wide-eyed children, occasionally jutting in with a witty line that never failed to make the audience chuckle. Sandra Sheedy, playing “The Holy Terror” Miss Andrew, gave a stunning performance of a haughty villain invigorated with self-important personality (Her scream while being forced into the cage made me jump out of my skin). And of course Ani Gregori Asadourian, who played the titular character of Mary Poppins, radiating confidence while remaining “practically perfect”.

Not enough praise can be given to all those who participated in this production. When the curtains rose halfway through Act 1, the Cherry Blossom set piece was stunning in its detailed beauty, and practically deserved a cheer by itself. The main house of the Banks constantly surprised me with its well thought out design, ranging from sides that folded in to create new scenery to boxes that blended with the background to allow Mary Poppins make objects appear out of thin air. When this box was first used, I heard confused muttering throughout the crowd around me – everyone ranging from children to adults were squinting to try to figure out how Mary Poppins was performing magic on stage. That’s how well done it was.

And the play would’ve been nothing without the efforts of the pit orchestra, who provided a professional level of quality to the soundtrack. A big brass sound, smooth bass and percussion, and perfectly timed orchestration allowed them to more than hold their own to the theatrics on stage. Several of our own SHS students participated in this orchestra– Milen Tesfaye, Allison Luks, Louis Meunier, Vincent Zhang, Thomas White, and Andrew Sennoga-Kimuli. Props to all of you!

The sheer talent behind the scenes as well! JJ Razzano, in addition to completely nailing his role as a chimney sweep, also led the choreography for the entirety of the show– a feat that seems far removed from the abilities of a high school student and reminds me exactly what people can achieve. It wasn’t half-assed either – wonderful ensemble work dizzied the mind with blindingly well timed tap-dancing and footwork. Ansley Teal, proudly depicting the inner turmoil of a wife chained to the whims of her husband, also found time to create the designs for posters, t-shirts, and even the program covers themselves. The work of these two was simply so unbelievably professional that I couldn’t believe a student had done either of those things. And that is perhaps the highest praise. 

The only criticisms that I could possibly have would be the sound and story. The audio work sometimes cut out, leaving some actors without microphones, and at times the balance between the band and performers was a bit off kilter. But these are minor grievances, and I can only respect the actors more for dealing with each small issue that came up in stride. My second issue would be with the story. In order to make the play a reasonable time, the team was forced to remove several scenes, and still only managed to bring the time down to some 2 hours. I will say this– I don’t speak for everyone in that audience, but if the rest of that play was the same quality as what I watched, I would’ve had no problem with sitting for another hour or 2. 

Tickets were 12 dollars for this show. I would’ve paid 30.  During Act 2, when the disco ball dropped from the ceiling and threw glittering lights spinning dreamily throughout the theater, I simply quietly noted in my head that this was possibly the greatest thing I was going to see all year. I had never seen Mary Poppins before this, and this cast has truly shown me how magical the story could be. I passed by the auditorium every day at the end of school, and if I peeked through the crack in the door, I would see a whole team of people working tirelessly to create something incredible, laughing and singing along to some tune I couldn’t quite hear. Well, you’ve done it. This is surely a play worthy of heavy praise, and I simply can’t give enough. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious indeed.