Friday, 21 November 2014 13:45

There’s Something About Mary

Written by  Allison Parker
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Mary Poppins
Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
Dec. 3-6, 10-14; show times at 7:30 & 2 p.m.
$18-$35, (616) 222-6650

When it comes to annoying personality traits, most of us would place arrogance near the top of the list. There’s just something about a stuck-up, snooty demeanor that seems to grate on almost everyone’s nerves.

And yet, nearly everyone loves Mary Poppins, a woman so intensely enamored with herself that she puts today’s selfie queens to shame. Not only is Mary quite proud of her appearance, but also she’s fiercely straight-laced and proper, a character no one would think about kicking back with to have a few beers.

Soaring onstage at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre this month, the show Mary Poppins nevertheless continues to delight audiences young and old with a titular character everyone somehow loves.

Perhaps it is the adventures Mary leads us on that make her such a crowd pleaser. The stage version features many of the same magical musical escapades that we know and love from the movie, while also throwing a few forgotten highlights from the book into the mix. And much like the movie, many of the outings center around the wonder of transforming everyday items and experiences.

At one point in the show Bert says, ‘All that it takes is a spark, then something as plain as a park becomes a wonderland.’ The story turns the ordinary into something extraordinary, from a carpet bag that holds more than the eye can see, to chimney sweeps who throw the best rooftop dance parties,” said Alyssa Bauer, who plays Mary in the show.

Most of us will agree, however, that we don’t just like what Mary can do. We also like Mary herself. Flawed though she may be, there is also a spirited strength and a genuine kindness to Mary that wins our hearts.

“Mary Poppins is her own person," Bauer said. "One hundred percent secure in herself and never in doubt of her behaviors and actions. She has high standards for others and only the highest for herself, so at times she can come across as particular. But all of her actions are motivated by her tremendous care for others and her desire to move them to someplace better."

Still, most of us have to admit that even Mary’s good points are not enough to make us fall completely in love with her. In truth, we adore her not just in spite of her faults, but really also because of her faults. Not only is Mary’s ego entertaining to poke fun at, but also it makes her character more relatable. By giving Mary humanizing flaws that make her more like the rest of us, the play continues its theme of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. Mary’s not a god with typical god-like abilities, but rather a normal human being with stupendous powers.

Other Performing Arts Events

Shrek, The Musical
Kalamazoo Civic Theatre
Dec. 4-7, 12-14; show times at 2 & 7:30 p.m.
$13-$20, (269) 343-1313

Shrek starts out as just a your average ogre doing average ogre things. You know, living in a swamp, taking mud baths, making earwax candles—those sorts of things. But all that changes when the loveable monster must complete a heroic feat of princely proportions. With his sassy pal Donkey at his side, Shrek embarks on an epic backwards fairytale that has become a beloved family classic.

A Christmas Story
Muskegon Civic Theatre
Beardsley Theatre, Muskegon
Dec. 4-7, show times at 3 & 7:30 p.m.
$18-$20, (231) 722-3852

A Christmas Story tells the hilarious tale of a boy’s elaborate attempts to get someone to buy him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Relive all the hilarity and charm of the popular holiday film as Ralphie stops at nothing to get his hands on ‘a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.’ Warning: attending the production may forever burn in your memory the image of a lamp resembling a dismembered limb.

The Nutcracker
Grand Rapids Ballet
Dec. 12-14, 19-21; show times at 2 & 7:30 p.m.
$20-$65, (616) 454-4771

The Nutcracker gets a special reimagining in this world premiere. Both the story and set design will take on a fresh Grand Rapids spin in what will be the largest production GR Ballet has ever undertaken. With this unique version of a timeless classic, the company hopes to start a new signature Christmas tradition of its own. 

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