Magic fills Syracuse Stage as the musical 'Mary Poppins' lifts off

Review: Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Disney film of the same name, the Broadway musical shares the beloved story of a nanny's magical effect on a family.

Young children – and adults too  who have already seen Mary Poppins at Syracuse Stage may still be trying to figure out how the titular nanny removed a coat rack, among other large props, from her famous carpet bag.

The special effects throughout the whole show, from Mary and the kids flying to chimneysweep Bert walking and dancing upside down on a rooftop, play with the mind.

Photo: Courtesy of Syracuse Stage
Jonathan Burke and Emily Brockway in the Syracuse Stage/SU Drama production of "Mary Poppins."

But it’s fitting that a show with so much stage magic comes during the holiday season. Mary Poppins runs at Syracuse Stage through Jan. 8, and its message on the importance of keeping families together makes this show a great choice for holiday entertainment.

The cast combines the talents of professional and local actors along with Syracuse University Department of Drama students. Making her Syracuse Stage debut is New York-based performer Emily Brockway as Mary. She is joined by Jonathan Burke as chimneysweep Bert and Benjamin Howes, who also appeared in the show’s Broadway company and the national tour, as Mr. Banks.

Particularly impressive are the children who bring life to Jane and Michael Banks: Onondaga Hill Middle School seventh-grader Sofia Benderski and sixth-grader Rueby Holsopple. Their acting and voice skills are truly admirable, especially for being able to maintain a British accent through the 2-hour-and-40 minute show.

Precision is one way to describe the performance of the actors. The dancing and singing complemented each other and, although the actors came from various backgrounds, everyone brought the same energy. This was especially clear in the choreographer's Anthony Salatino challenging arrangement of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Also, a realistic set design helped bring the story from screen to stage. A giant projection screen added movement to the set helping transport the viewer to London.

And if the impressive visuals and acting weren't enough, the cast delivered Mary Poppins' familiar songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” so that it was easy to keep your inner child engaged from beginning to end.

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