A joyous experience

The storm-shattered Friday May 11 had me drive a three-and-a-half-hour trip from Apollo Bay to Malmsbury in central Victoria.
I drove this potentially hazardous journey clutching a coveted ticket to an amateur theatre show in Kyneton.
I usually avoid amateur theatre, but I had a rare opportunity to see Ms Tiffany Speight in the role of Mary Poppins.
THE Ms Tiffany Speight. Multi-award winning woman of dazzling vocal gymnastics who has legions of fans.
Ms Speight had taken a break from performing for some years and opera audiences inter-nationally had missed her sparkling stage presence. I was not going to let a mere matter of rough weather rob me of this moment.
So on a freezing Kyneton night in The Bluestone Theatre, I spent two-and-a-half hours being completely beguiled by Sprout Musical Theatre’s production of Mary Poppins. Charmed in the true sense of the word. And not just by the devastatingly good Ms Speight.
The vigour with which this company presented the timeless story was in turns funny, poignant and touching. It was an emotionally satisfying experience.
Ms Speight utterly commanded her audience. Her glorious voice thrilled through every beam in the old church and her full-bodied, sexy roundness radiated a rich, warm authority as Mary. It is a rare treat to be taken on a theatrical journey by a performer who is in full command of her craft.
The very mixed skill-level of the rest of the cast did not matter. Their commitment to telling the story pushed aside any criticisms. Their enthusiasm was infectious and director, Ms Royle, acquitted herself very well in bringing to order a ragged bunch of hopefuls.
The children were consistent and the ensemble did their best, even creating a couple of hilarious moments. Jack Psaila grabbed his minute in the spotlight and danced a Russian knees up for all its comic worth. Ben McGill, as the children’s father, showed great promise in his first acting role.
A Sinatra stylist, Ben possesses a voice well-suited to musical theatre and delivered a touching performance.
David Harrod as the chimney sweep, was a complete surprise. Harrod is a highly respected production manager who has worked widely with Opera Australia and various symphonies throughout Australasia. New to performing, he brought an authenticity to the role that was deeply engaging.
Theatre is ephemeral. Only those who have ever been involved with it have any any idea of the time and hard work it takes to put on a show.
The cast of Mary Poppins gifted Kyneton such a joyous experience! Never let the weather dictate your life.
Meryl Leppard is a composer/lyricist/performer whose songs are in theatre, cabaret shows, film, TV and Off-Broadway productions. www.meryllepppard.com

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