“Mary Poppins” musical: Just the right amount of sugar

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Walking into the Orpheum this past Tuesday night it was safe to say that I had very high expectations.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen that movie over the past seventeen years and really, once you’ve gone Disney, you can’t go back.  And after a few rough starts, it’s safe to say this show was certainly a spoonful of sugar.

The persona that is Mary Poppins began as the title character in a series of children’s books written by P.L. Travers, beginning in 1934.  It was then adapted into a Disney film in 1964, which is where the magic truly began to happen.  Timeless classics, such as “Spoonful of Sugar,” and the impossibly hard to type without messing up at least four times, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”  It was originally produced on London’s West End, and has since enjoyed multiple revivals.  It seems that Mary Poppins truly is a nanny for all. 

Although the show was downright magical (with people walking along the ceiling, cakes rising before our eager eyes, and of course, Mary Poppins’ bottomless bag, how could it not) there are a few aspects that warrant special attention.  I sat agape as the set changed again and again, only getting better and better.  It was perhaps the most creative set I’d ever seen on a stage: the Banks house is made to look like a paper doll’s house, complete with parts folding out and turning just so, to create a whole new scene before our very eyes.  Bob Crowley, who created the set, also created the costumes, and never once did they fail to disappoint.  Innovative, creative, slightly wacky, they were some kind of magic only Mary Poppins (or her incredible team) can produce.  Choreographer Matthew Bourne truly outdid himself, especially on group numbers such as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”  My eyes literally could not move fast enough to take in everything that was happening—and believe me, I tried. 

Jane and Michael Banks, played by Alexa Shae Niziak and Eli Tokash, continued to surprise me with their talent throughout the performance.  Con O’Shea Creal, who played the ever lovable character of Bert, was, I’m pretty sure, a reincarnation of D*** Van Dyck.  Really.  Although Mary Poppins, played by Madeline Trumble, had an incessant vibrato that took over almost every note she sang, she played her character to the fullest and I was suspended into her world, of magic and laughter and toys that can talk. 

Few musicals can stand the test of time.  Even fewer can last as long as Mary Poppins has, which is a testament to the lessons it teaches and the values it instills in us as children.  I think everyone could take a bit more of Mary’s advice: sometimes all you really need is a little imagination and a spoonful of sugar to let the medicine go down.  After all, anything can happen if you let it!