Mary Poppins (Review)

Touring show is simply too much of a good thing

Apr 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I remember taking my sisters to see the Disney film of Mary Poppins in 1964. It was a similar scene, awash in kids, at the Aronoff Center for the touring production of Disney’s reinvention of the film as a stage musical.

I have fond memories of the film and its tuneful score. Kids seeing the stage production will enjoy it, too, although this show strikes me as more overstuffed than Mary’s magical carpetbag. After almost three hours — concluded with one more frenetic rendition of the hyper-choreographed “Supercalifragilisticexpiaalidocioius” — many of the children in the audience were asleep or whining to go home.

That’s not to say the show lacks entertaining moments. In truth, there are simply too many. Mary Poppins uses eye candy, clowning and fancy dancing to retell the whimsical tale of the starchy nanny (Caroline Sheen) who’s “Practically Perfect,” her antic friend Bert the chimney sweep (Gavin Lee) and precocious Jane and Michael Banks (Kelsey Fowler and Carter Thomas), the neglected, troublesome children of a workaholic London banker.

A few too many subplots clog the storytelling — a crusty housekeeper and a clumsy butler provide physical comedy, and the return of Mr. Banks’ own horrifying nanny is both scary and unnecessary.

There are wonderful magical effects including statues that come to life, Bert’s tap dance up one side of the stage proscenium, across the top and down the opposite side and Mary’s aerial arrivals and departures. The show’s visuals are excellent — numerous costumes (chorus members are constantly changing) and scenery that suddenly glows in Technicolor, glitters and magically changes, all designed by Bob Crowley.

A sprightly orchestra, conducted by James Dodgson, keeps the tempo high. Still, the evening would really be improved if we could simply pack an hour’s worth of this bloated feast into Mary’s carpetbag and let it fly away.

MARY POPPINS, presented by Broadway Across America, continues through April 25. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.