Saturday, September 25, 2021

Mary Poppins


Live theater is back in Davis, and the Davis Musical Theater Company has started its 37th season with a lively, colorful production of “Mary Poppins,” directed and choreographed by Kyle Jackson, with a beautiful set designed by Steve Isaacson. Tylen Einweck is the musical director, conducting the smaller-than-usual DMTC orchestra.

Audiences must show proof of COVID vaccination and must wear masks, and all the actors on stage wear masks, so those thinking of attending this show can feel as safe as anyone can these days.

Jori Gonzales makes a wonderful Mary Poppins, in costumes designed by Denise Miles. She flies gracefully, sings beautifully and has a great relationship with the Banks family, especially the children.

All of the Banks family give strong performances, particularly Joe Alkire as George Banks, who takes control of the stage whenever he is on it. I was even more impressed with his performance when I learned he only came into the show two weeks before opening, when the original George had to drop out for medical reasons.


Andrea Bourquin is the perfect wife. When you look at her character, smaller than George and Mary, she just looks like she couldn’t be anything but a wife. She has less to do than the others in the family, but everything she does is perfect.

Ruby Schwerin and Django Nachmanoff are the two naughty children, Jane and Michael. Schwerin in particular is great and her bouncy pony tail curls add to her character.

Amy Woodman is the family’s overworked, stressed maid, Mrs. Brill, and Timothy Blankenship is the house boy, Robinson Ay, both of whom complain about living in a madhouse.

Bert is the chimney sweep who is Mary’s good friend. Judah Dwight is a lot of fun to watch, and is the storyteller of the show. When the children met Bert and are unimpressed with him because of his appearance, Mary teaches them they need to look past appearances and brings a statue to life (“Jolly Holiday”). Jean Henderson is the costume coordinator for this production and the shadows she put on the costumes of the statue (Eduard Arakely as Neleus) make the him look like he really is made of marble. It’s a wonderful effect.

Jennifer Rineman makes an impression in her brief appearance as the bird woman, singing the beautiful “Feed the Birds.”

Beth Ellen Ethridge shows up in Act 2 as Miss Andrew, George’s former nanny, of whom he is still frightened. Though masked, like everyone else, Ethridge creates a unique character with the expression in her eyes. She and Gonzales have a show stopping duet, “Brimstone and Treacle,” which would do justice to any professional production.

The show has some wonderfully colorful ensemble numbers, like “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” led by Mrs. Corry, “the oldest woman in the world,” played by Jenifer Goldman.

Tessa Fray is Valentine, Jane’s doll brought to life by Mary to teach the children about playing nicely with others and appreciating the value of their toys.

This is a delightful production, which moves at a steady pace. The only sad thing about it is that for the Saturday-night performance we attended, there were more people on stage than in the audience. I hope the word gets out about the safety of the theater and the quality of the production.

Singin' in the Rain


With no theatrical productions at all in 2020, it appears that Woodland Opera House actors spent the pandemic year studying and improving their dancing.  The dancing and choreography (by Darryl Strohl-DeHerrera) for their production of “Singing in the Rain,” directed by Rodger McDonald, which opened on Friday, were the highlights of the show.

While the Woodland Opera House is back to 100% capacity, currently the Yolo County Health Department requires face coverings for all of patrons regardless of vaccination status. And for an added layer of protection, Opera House staff will take the temperature of all theatre attendees upon their entry. Masks and hand sanitizer are available to anyone in attendance at each theatre event.  The actors on stage also wear clear plastic masks, which don’t hamper their speaking or singing but do cut down on the romantic scenes (hugging instead of kissing!)

This is a lovely production, with no real “set” per se, but beautiful projections in the background. Written originally as a film, not a stage show, “Singin’ in the Rain” is the stage version of the 1952 movie by Comden and Green, with Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds.

It is the story of the end of silent movies and the start of the talkies. After the success of “The Jazz Singer,” the money-hungry head of the studio, R.F. Simpson (Rodger McDonald), decides that his next silent movie, “The Dueling Cavalier,” should be converted into a musical talkie, titled “The Dancing Cavalier,” a vehicle for his two biggest names, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, the “Brangelina” of their day.

Erik Catalan is a solid Lockwood with many musical numbers, the best of which is the title song, in which he sings while “rain” falls all across the stage, filling the stage with puddles, but not getting any clothes wet. It’s a great effect by Mike Cartwright,.

Patricia Glass is perfect as Lina, the obnoxious star with a voice like fingernails on a blackboard. She’s the perfect silent film star–can’t sing, can’t dance, act. She is convinced that there is a romance between her and Lockwood, who, in reality, can’t stand her.  Charlotte French is very funny as the vocal coach trying to teach her how to speak correctly (“I can’t stand him!”).

In this show, Lina has her own solo, “What’s Wrong with Me,” which is not in the film.  Glass does a great job of singing it badly!

The very polished Kirsten Myers is Kathy Selden, the actress wannabe whom Lockwood convinces to become Lina’s voice when it is apparent that there is no way Lina is going to make it in talkies. Her trio with Don and Cosmo, “Good Morning” is great fun.

Lockwood’s old vaudeville partner and perfect fall guy, Cosmo Brown is wonderfully played by Eddie Voyce, whose “Make ’Em Laugh” is one of the most fun numbers of the night. It’s a complex piece that he performs well.

There is good support from the rest of the cast, like Gil Sebastian as Roscoe Dexter, the director of Don and Lina’s films, Katherine Fio as Lina’s friend Zelda, and Barbara Goodman as gossip columnist Dora Bailey.

The action is not always as crisp as it might be, but still such a fun evening, and a great way to bring live performances back to the theater.