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Everyone’s favourite British nanny is back in Thousand Oaks and this time closing out Young Artists Ensemble‘s 2018-2019 family season with Mary Poppins Jr. starring a winsome and talented cast including some past favourites from The Little Prince.
Margaret Le Fleur is “practically perfect” as a playful and lovable Mary Poppins full of heart. She is able to reach the high notes, dance with the chimney sweeps and melt your heart with her performance. She is well matched by her young costars, McKenna Keiser and Frances Greulach, who play Jane and Michael Banks respectively. These young actors dazzled the crowd with their performances full of humor and heart. Kuddos to Mr. Greulach who used his hoarseness to his advantage making Michael Banks even that more charming and lovable. And Ms. Keiser did such a great job morphing into her role as Jane Banks that I had a hard time relating her to The Little Prince I had just seen a few months ago.
The other adult roles were aptly played by teen actors Jassir Rivera (Bert), Nathaniel Mark (George Banks) and Emmy Julian (Winifred Banks). Rivera had an easy comradeship with Le Fleur’s Mary Poppins. Mark demonstrated a great deal of heart in his portrayal as the family “sovereign”. Despite being robbed of Winifred’s solo Being Mrs. Banks in the Jr. version, Julian did a great job with the material she was given in conveying the woman caught between desires to do what she believes to be right and Edwardian restrictions.
Rounding out the cast are several familiar faces from The Little Prince including Charlee Lambert who was born to play Mrs. Brill. While I came around to liking her Aviator in The Little Prince, I absolutely LOVED her take on the much put upon maid at Cherry Tree Lane. Playing her sidekick is Michael Lindroth (Robertson Ay) who used his tall stature to add to his comedic performance. Gingerbread shop owner Mrs. Corry was played by a highly caffeinated Riley Emma Mays with a smile stretching from ear to ear, Miss Andrew was well played by a versatile Maddie Ragsdale who previously wowed us as The Rose in The Little Prince, Anna Cardino was just too cute and delightful as the Bird Woman, and Caleigh Moreno took advantage of her short scene as Katie Nanna to demonstrate her comedic chops – something she continued to do as a bank employee alongside Mays in a couple later scenes.
The young men also proved themselves worthy of standing on that stage. Reyn Smith (Neleus/Policeman) stepped in last minute for an ill Chairman and you would never have guessed this wasn’t his regular role. Drake Xavier Munson (previously credited as Drake Munson in The Little Prince) and George Friberg as the bank customers, Von Hussler and John Northbrook, were memorable and evoked just the right emotion from the audience without being meladramatic.
And it would be a shame not to mention the beautiful ensemble:
Maiah Callanan, Lily Gentry, Callula Saywer, Kayla Horwitz, Madelyn O’Neill, Reyn Smith, Raedyn Sorensen who made up the cutest chimney sweeps, honey bees, etc.
If you are looking for a fun outing, I cannot think of a better option then to see Young Artists Ensemble‘s Mary Poppins Jr. playing through May 19th at the Hillcrest Arts Center in Thousand Oaks, California. With Young Artists Ensemble favorites Georgeanne Lees (Director), Susan Treworgy Calkins (Musical Director), Jessica Coffman (Choreographer) and Mark Andrew Reyes (Technical Director) behind the scenes and such a talented and gifted young cast this is a delight to behold especially if you want to take the family for a good time out.
Disclaimer: I had my ticket comped for review purposes but all opinions are my own.