Cambridge Times

Mary Poppins a guaranteed smile
High-calibre directing, acting and singing comes to new Cambridge, top-rated theatre

by Jeff Hurst
Published: March 11, 2013
Mark Ledbetter, Jayme Armstrong and Company in Mary Poppins and the Dunfield Theatre CambridgeMary Poppins a guaranteed smile. Mark Ledbetter (Bert), Jayme Armstrong (Mary Poppins) and the cast of Mary Poppins.
Photo courtesy of Drayton Entertainment.
Ya done good, Cambridge. Along with building a top-rate theatre, you launched it with Mary Poppins. And while Cambridge was the foundation, it was Drayton Entertainment that had the vision.

Directed by Nigel West, a high-calibre talent from England, Mary Poppins is miles beyond any other Drayton production. The 500-seat Dunfield Theatre Cambridge is a comfortable setting to enjoy such a welcoming, classic production. Equipped with high-tech gadgetry and enough sets to make you feel like a Brit, Mary Poppins comes equipped with a first-class cast.

Leading the way is Mary herself, played by Jayme Armstrong. It�s impossible not to compare her to Julie Andrews, who starred in the movie version. Miss Andrews was all lollipops and fairy dust. Jayme Armstrong possesses those characteristics, but also provides Mary Poppins with a wider range, one who knows how to shape wayward children into proper young adults, but also tender enough to show her compassion for Bert the chimney sweep � suggesting a love interest not evident in the movie version.

Armstrong is a standout in the production � her singing is effortless and charming, her dancing is flawless, and her acting bang on. She has it all and Drayton is lucky to have her. Bert (Mark Ledbetter) is more the chameleon. Whether a chimney sweep, an artist selling his wares, a shoulder to cry on or the lighthearted prankster, his singing is good, but his dancing is his real power point.

The story is based around Mary Poppins showing up at the Banks household. Mom is lonely, dad is a workaholic who has forgotten what life is all about, and the two children are lost in the mix.

There are strong performances all around with Jackie Mustakas (Winifred Banks) showing her tender side to her husband George (James Kall). His role ranges from a job-driven banker to a man who finds the meaning of life just in the brink of time. The children are portrayed by four youngsters � Avery Kadish and Hadley Mustakas share the role of Jane Banks, while Trek Buccino and Jayden Greig take turns as Michael Banks.

The actors alternate performances throughout the eight-week run. On the evening I attended, Trek and Hadley both showed strong singing and acting chops.

A true standout is Jayne Lewis as the nasty nanny Miss Andrew and the bird woman in the park. It might be a smaller role, but her singing is a showstopper.

Mary Poppins is a family affair, guaranteed to put a smile on your face.