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‘Practically perfect’ performance of ‘Poppins’

Talented cast puts on memorable show

"Mary Poppins" is one of Festival 56's summer season plays, based on the theme "A Season of Women's Stories."
"Mary Poppins" is one of Festival 56's summer season plays, based on the theme "A Season of Women's Stories."

Audiences rushed the theater last Thursday evening for the opening of Festival 56’s fourth show this season, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins.”

Festival 56 sold out two of its first three performances this past weekend and is now urging people to buy their tickets early to ensure a seat for this “practically perfect in every way” performance, which is how Mary Poppins herself might describe this show.

Director Gina Handy Minyard has done a wonderful job bringing this big performance to life on a small stage in downtown Princeton.

This production is packed full of great talent. It has all the favorite show tunes viewers will remember from the 1964 film. And the toe-tapping dance numbers will surely get one clapping and cheering (at least they did for the two ladies I sat next to Friday evening). If you’re going to see this show, be on the lookout for plenty of Mary Poppins stage magic that will leave you wondering just how did they do that.

What’s extra unique about this performance is a special appearance of the young Camp 56 performers who sing and dance a number on stage that is sure to make you smile.

Just like in the 1964 film, the play opens with cheery chimney sweep Bert (Pat Desmond) who takes us to Cherry Tree Lane where we quickly get acquainted with the Banks family.

There is Mr. George Banks (Eric Shonk), a pompous, status-obsessed breadwinner who has no time for his children, and Mrs. Winifred Banks (Rachel Weinfeld), a subordinate wife who feels unnoticed and useless at times.

There are the two mischievous Banks children, Jane (Lexi Bouslog) and Michael (Ashley Richardson). Festival 56 has cast a girl to play young Michael. Richardson, an 11-year-old from Princeton, makes the perfect Michael with her long hair slicked back into two tight buns. Richardson and 14-year-old Bouslog, also of Princeton, are both a triple threat as they act, sing, dance while keeping up with the professional actors without missing a beat.

Also in the upper-middle-class Edwardian home are two humorous house servants, Mrs. Brill (Janna Schmid) and Robertson Ay (Cole Winston), who will keep you chuckling in nearly every scene they appear.

When the show opens, the two Banks children have run out yet another nanny with their witty pranks and are proposing an ad for “The Perfect Nanny,” which they sing out and hand over to their father.

Their father rips up the nonsense and throws it into the fireplace, where a little magic carries it up and out of their home.

Hardly a second later, enter right stage, through the front door of the Banks home, Mary Poppins (Lucy Given), who is poised, polished and ready to tackle any life problem that floats her way. Along with her comes her bottomless nanny carpet bag, and more important, a few needed life lessons that aid each member of the Banks family through their personal struggles.

Beloved music, lyrics

This performance includes all the beloved, original music and lyrics by the Sherman brothers, including, “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “Jolly Holiday,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Step in Time” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”

I saw plenty of families with their children, which proves this is a great show to introduce your young ones to theater. This family musical is both entertaining and promises positive lessons and values.

There are only four more showings of Festival 56’s “Mary Poppins.” If you’re thinking of seeing this show, I will stress once again that you should purchase your tickets today to ensure a spot in the theater.

Remaining show times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 18, Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20, and a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 21, in the Grace Performing Arts Center, located at 316 S. Main St., Princeton.

Tickets are $29, $26 (seniors 65 plus) and $14 (students). Call the box office at 815-879-5656. The box office is open from Monday to Saturday noon to 5 p.m. and one hour before show times.

Note to readers: Goldie Rapp is senior staff writer at the Bureau County Republican. She can be reached at or follow her on Twitter @bcr_grapp.

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