Mindy Lucas

Lucas: Review: Hilton Head's 'Mary Poppins' practically perfect

From left, Rachel Stratton, Allegra Leland and Blake Lutz star in the upcoming regional premiere of Mary Poppins, opening this week at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.
From left, Rachel Stratton, Allegra Leland and Blake Lutz star in the upcoming regional premiere of Mary Poppins, opening this week at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. Tr Media World

About 30 minutes in to the opening night performance of "Mary Poppins" at The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, a full ensemble number called "Jolly Holiday" brought the house down.

As a dreary London park magically transforms into a dazzling technicolored landscape teaming with whirling dancers and statues that come alive, it becomes obvious this is going to be a first-rate production in the tradition of big-cast Broadway musicals such as "Cats" or "West Side Story."

From gorgeous costuming and lavish production values to a stellar cast, Mary Poppins is practically perfect in every way, to borrow the famous nanny's signature songline.

First, there is the role of Poppins played by Allegra Leland.

Leland's performance is so mesmerizing it's hard to believe she didn't first audition for the role of the famous nanny who blows in with the wind.

But Leland, who originally tried out for a part as a dancer, wowed director Casey Colgan so much he had her read for Poppins and the rest, as they say, is history.

Her pitch-perfect performance as the all-knowing, sweetly-sainted Poppins is so uncanny, I found myself watching her every move, from the smoothing down of her buttoned coat to the tilt of her head as she laughed inwardly at her precocious charges.

Like Leland's, there were so many stand-out performances -- from the Banks children, played by Rachel Stratton (and also Broderick Copeland) and Blake Lutz (and also Turner Birthisel), to Bert the chimney sweep played by James Scheider, to the Bird Woman played by Lori Maurer -- space prevents me from listing them all here.

Perhaps the biggest star of the show, though, was the ensemble cast itself.

With nine major production numbers and a variety of dance styles, Poppins' musical numbers not only were expertly done, but the precision and sophistication of its choreography as best seen in "Step In Time" had the audience shouting out for more.

Anglophiles will love the details of the set and post-Victorian era costumes from the top hats and red scarves of the chimney sweeps to the white blooming sleeves and high-waisted skirts of the bank employees.

Every detail is accounted for right down to Poppins' bird-handled umbrella and locket on a chain.

At nearly three hours in length, such a long production normally would be pushing the envelope in terms of attention span, but with non-stop action, even between set changes, and each number topping the last, it was easy to lose track of time.

The production also has a broad appeal in that children will love the Dr. Seuss-like characters in the sweet shop and the show's magical aspects while adults will appreciate the message behind the story.

From its first few opening numbers to the amazingly complicated "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" -- which by the way the cast double downs on for the curtain call -- "Mary Poppins" will have Lowcountry audiences humming "Um diddle diddle diddle, Um diddle ay" for weeks to come.

If You Go

"Mary Poppins" runs at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head Island, through Dec. 31.

Based on the books by P.L. Travers, the Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's production features "high-flying" special effects and such familiar songs as "A Spoonful of Sugar."

Tickets are $59. Discounts are available for children ages 5-15.

Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information call 843-842-2787 or visit www.artshhi.com.

Follow reporter Mindy Lucas on Twitter at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.

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