For God’s sake go and see this production.
That is all.
No, just kidding. I’m a musical geek so I’m predisposed by nature to liking anything that uses a song as a plot device to move the story forward or underline a character’s emotions in a theatre production.
But damn it, even if you break out in hives at the mere mention of anything to do with magic, have a medium to severe umbrella phobia or have seriously traumatic memories from your personal Nanny or Au Pair experience when you were a child, this production is one not to miss.
If you’ve been living under a rock since advertising for Mary Poppins started – this Cameron Mackintosh produced and co-created musical is housed at The Arsht Center until January 6. It’s based on the books by P.L Travers and the 1964 Disney film starring Julie Andrews.
If you’re expecting it to follow the movie storyline exactly you won’t get your wish, but you get all the favorites from the movie including my favorite – Chim Chim Cher-ee. There are fantastic new songs too, including Brimstone and Treacle which among its many good points has a sing-off between Miss Andrew and Mary Poppins.
I’m going to limit the spoilers in this review as I truly believe the element of surprise will enhance the performance for anyone going to watch it. Suffice to say – if you want magic, you’ll get it.
Madeline Trumble as Mary Poppins just blew me away. She fully embodies the character of Mary Poppins and is a compelling combination of stern and playful, quirky and kind. The character by nature is mysterious and you don’t get to figure out what she’s thinking at any given moment. The brief moments when you get to see the emotion underneath are brilliantly executed by Trumble and added a depth to the production that I didn’t expect (more on this below.)
I can’t stress enough how difficult this role must be – there are many intricate set changes and costume changes to deal with, and a massive moment somewhere in the production that I won’t spoil but let me be very clear: Trumble and her understudies must have nerves of steel on top of everything else. To sing so wonderfully as well – Trumble and the cast fully deserved their standing ovation on opening night.
Con O’Shea as Bert is fantastic as well. The chemistry between Bert and Mary is very clear and he has the audience cracking up at regular intervals during the night with quips and jokes. Hats off to O’Shea for his dancing – he is incredibly talented and leads some truly amazing dance routines-including an upside down one!
The Banks Family – Michael Dean Morgan and Elizabeth Broadhurst as Mr and Mrs Banks, and Jane and Michael (there are four pairs of children cast as the Banks’ kids) are definitely true to the movie and the books. The kids who play Jane and Michael Banks are adorable– they’re onstage almost the whole performance and are by turns hilarious and tug at the heartstrings.
Ben Cherry filling in for one night as George Banks was excellent – all of the grown-ups in the audience will relate to him. He delivers a perfectly poised performance and again lent an emotional depth that was one of the highlights of the night for me.
Broadhurst as Winifred Banks was so elegant and poised – she plays off Burke very well. I’m so glad she got her own song (Being Mrs Banks) both to show a side of her character you don’t see in the movie and because Broadhurst has an amazing voice.
This is definitely a performance to take your kids to – they’ll be blown away by the “magic” that crops up practically every two minutes (the “magic bag” from the movie makes an appearance, as does the umbrella, although sadly it does not talk.) Adults will enjoy this just as much, and I guarantee that you will have moments where you won’t be able to decide where to look, so talented are the dancers and so complex the choreography. You’ll possibly also go home and Google how to say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious backwards (again, hats off to Trumble for pulling that off at least twice.)
Every detail of Mary Poppins is polished to a glow, including the precise musical arrangements of songs both old and new, many of them leaning to operetta, sung in voices sure to impress. A Notable mention goes to Tonya Thompson as Mrs Corry who gave a magnificent vocal performance. Karen Murphy, who delivers the poignant Feed the Birds (along with Mary), reveals even greater vocal range as the dragon-countenanced Miss Andrew, the nanny of every child’s nightmares, is vivacious and terrifying.
It’s all kind of bonkers, but that’s not the point. You’re not going to see this play expecting a solemn exploration of turn-of-the-century family/gender politics. You’re going to see it for the singing, dancing, dreaming, and all the fabulous stylistic finery that it delivers in spades.
And, as I said at the start of this piece, for God’s sake go and see this production.