Review: Mary Poppins brings Magic to the Jubilee
I saw Broadway Across Canada’s touring production of Mary Poppins on Tuesday (opening night) with the Calgary Musicals Meetup group. I’m squeezing in today’s review over my lunch hour (it was supposed to be yesterday’s review, but you know how it is), and it’s a short run, so suffice to say this was a great show, with all the spectacle you’d want in a Broadway musical. From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty much the same as the Broadway show - sets, special effects and all.
Mary Poppins tells the story of London’s “Practically Perfect,” nanny who mysteriously enters into and turns around the lives of the troubled but wealthy Banks family by bringing fun and magic (back) into their lives and inspiring Mr. Banks (Michael Dean Morgan) to spend less time at work and more time with his loving wife (Elizabeth Broadhurst) and children (Marissa Ackerman and Zach Timson for this performance)- a lesson that’s just as relevant today as ever, maybe more so.
The Broadway show is “A musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film” of the same name. There is quite a bit added to the story and characters from the movie version, as well as some deletions. In particular, we learn much more about the father, George Banks, and what made him so serious (enter Miss Andrew (Q. Smith), literally George’s nanny-from-hell, who gets her charges into shape with “Brimstone and Treacle” – as opposed to Mary Poppins’ “Spoonful of Sugar”). What was most surprising was the number of new songs and lyrics added to the original songs from the movie by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. There were only four songs left untouched (“The Perfect Nanny”, “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Feed The Birds” and “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”). Five more had new/additional lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and there are seven additional songs by the same writers, all of which blend well into the existing storyline, although this might feel off-putting for some – especially those of us who like to sing along (at least in our heads). The sequence of the songs has also been changed and some have been dropped. As such, while the show has a familiar feel to it, there’s enough new material to keep things interesting.
The cast was terrific, particularly Rachel Wallace in the title role – a more egotistical and less sweet (but still perpetually smiling), version of the role made famous by Julie Andrews. I was really impressed with the big song-and-dance numbers like “Jolly Holiday” (complete with ballet-dancing sculptures), “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (I’ll bet the Spell-check isn’t going to like that one) and “Step in Time” (including a fabulous tap dance number with the chimney sweeps led by Bert (Case Dillard)). Hats off to co-director and choreographer Matthew Borne and scenic and costume designer Bob Crowley (the foldable doll-house set and rooftop scenes were amazing) for pulling off an impressive production that is a delight for young and old alike. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it’s practically perfect, but it’s pretty darned close. If you like the Disney Movie (and who doesn’t?), you’ll probably like this too.
Broadway Across Canada’s Mary Poppins runs until Sunday August 5th at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances are at 8:00 p.m. and there’s a Saturday matinée at 2:00 p.m. and a Sunday matinée at 1:00pm. The final Sunday evening show is at 6:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $35 to over $100 (plus fees). It’ll be tough to get good seats at this point, but they have a special deal on “referral” RUSH tickets. Show up at the theatre one hour before the show, say I sent you and you can get half price on selected seats – subject to availability and facility fees. To order tickets go to: www.ticketmaster.ca or call toll-free 1.855.985.5000. For more information, go to: MaryPoppins.com.