I saw two performances and will most likely see the 7:00 show tonight.
Its easy to forget what a wonderful story this is, especially when presented as a movie with special effects or presented merely as children’s entertainment.
Most get introduced to Mary Poppins through the Disney version; it easy to become entranced by Mary’s magic, her confidence, and no-nonsense approach to life.
Make no mistake, the actress playing Mary Poppins for the Utley Middle School version does a wonderful job.
What impressed me most about this particular play, however, was the job done by the actor playing Mr. Banks.
This is the character that has the most growth. He starts off as a tyrannical father with no idea of how to be parent or be a husband. He learns in the end how to fly a kite, so to speak. He learns how to balance work with fun, how to balance family with responsibility. Its a nuanced role and the kid actor playing this in the Utley version does it well.
A beautiful allegorical story about a young person’s journey from grief to acceptance. Connor has two nightmares that bother him. One comes in the shape of walking yew tree that something visits at 12:07AM. The other monster that is more real and frightening he cannot even describe. He calls it his “nightmare.”
Connor has many troubles: his mother his dying, his father has a new family and has moved to America, his Grandmother who wants to adopt him is obtuse and annoying.
Conor would give anything for his mother to live, even befriend a yew-tree monster who claims he can cure every human ailment.
What’s best about this novel is how psychologically astute the writing is. Conor is isolated and so he feels “invisible.” He asks the yew tree how he helped another invisible being but ends up getting into a physical fight with a boy that has bullied him.
The monster tells stories to help the boy understand psychological truths:
“There was once an invisible man, the monster continued, though Conor kept his eyes firmly on Harry, who had grown tried of being unseen…It was not that he was actually invisible, the monster said, following Conor….It was that people had become used to not seeing him.”
Conor learns, however, that there are “harder things being invisible.” At his worst, Conor learns, “They all saw him now. But he was further away than ever.”