by Larry Ham
If you go see the Raisin’ Cain Players production of Mary Poppins at the Selma Arts Center (and you should), and you are old enough to remember the movie of the same title (like me), be prepared for a great and nostalgic ride, because this is a production that has so many wonderful elements, it’s hard to pick just a few to share in a review of this length.
The obvious place to start is with the performances of the two main characters – Christy Hathaway as Mary Poppins, and Caleb Robbins as Bert. These two are simply magical.
Christy Hathaway is an accomplished local actress, with an impressive resume, and she possesses a voice that is clear, commanding, and confident, both in spoken words, and as she sings the familiar songs that have made Mary Poppins a favorite for fifty years. If an actress was ever made to play a part, Christy Hathaway was made to play Mary Poppins.
Caleb Robbins is equally terrific as Bert – Mary’s pal, and a jack-of-all-trades. His singing is wonderful, his acting is great and convincing, and there’s a great chemistry between Bert and Mary that shows through, throughout the entire show. He also manages to sing on key while being suspended upside down. Try that yourself sometime.
The rest of the cast does an outstanding job as well. In a small region like ours, you would think that a director would have difficulty finding adequate talent for a cast the size of Mary Poppins, but Nicolette Andersen, who directed Mary Poppins, and is also the coordinator of the Selma Arts Center, manages to get the most out of everyone, as a good director would. I was particularly impressed with the performances of Alden Bettencourt and Brittany Roberts as Mr. and Mrs. Banks, and Julie Valdez is great as Mrs. Andrews, the former nanny. She plays the role to the hilt, and turns Mrs. Andrews into sort of a Wicked Witch of the West after eight cups of coffee. Simply wonderful.
The Selma Arts Center is a great place to see a show, as well. The setting is very viewer friendly, the stage is right there in front of you, and the sound system is very clear. Technically, the production crew gets Kudos for accomplishing the scenes in which Mary Poppins flies, without making it look awkward and… shall I say it.. cheesy? It’s a lot harder to do than any of us could probably imagine.
I save my final tip of the hat to choreographer Linda Amaral. According the program, she was responsible for the choreography for “Step in Time,” which was the highlight of the show, for me. Incredibly complex as it was, the crowd was simply mesmerized and responded with the loudest applause of the entire show.
I suppose I am required to criticize something in a review, and it’s difficult to come up with anything bad to say about Mary Poppins at the Selma Arts Center. If there is one thing that I would change, it would be to shorten the intermission from twenty minutes to ten minutes. The show runs a full two and a half hours, and with the number of small children that will be attending, a slightly shorter run time would help out moms and dads a lot.
But that’s just nit-picking a bit. This is a wonderful show, it’s well acted, the songs are familiar and well done, the production is terrific, and the view from anywhere in the room is ideal.
Just as the River City Theater Company has put Reedley on the map and garnered it a reputation for quality stage productions, so too have the Raisin’ Cain Players put Selma on the map. What a wonderful thing it is, in a time of declining values and trash on television, that we can still gather in a small local venue and enjoy something like Mary Poppins at the Selma Arts Center which runs through January 17. Ticket info can be found on their website.
Editor’s note: This is the first of several productions of Mary Poppins coming to the Valley this year.
Check out more local arts and entertainment articles in KRL’s A & E section.