Submitted by Roy C. Dicks — Correspondent
Audiences expect to like the stage musical Mary Poppins because its based on the beloved 1964 Disney film, as well as the popular series of books by P.L. Travers. And audiences expect highly entertaining shows from the Walt Disney Company and Cameron Mackintosh. So whats not to like? That depends on the satisfaction of those expectations and the tolerance of some of the touring productions liabilities.
The show includes the main Sherman Brothers songs from the film. Numbers such as Feed the Birds, Chim Chim Cher-ee and Step in Time are virtually the same as in film, while others, such as A Spoonful of Sugar, Jolly Holiday and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, are in different settings and situations.
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe contribute seven new songs, several for Mary Poppins, others for secondary characters. Scriptwriter Julian Fellowes has expanded the plotline to include new scenes, including Miss Andrew, a witch-like nanny temporarily replacing Mary Poppins, and a scene in which the Banks childrens toys come alive.
Bob Crowleys clever, colorful sets and detailed, imaginative costumes make dazzling backdrops for special effects such as flying, ceiling-walking and sudden disappearances. The talented cast does everything its asked by Anthony Lyns well-paced direction and Geoffrey Garratts energetic choreography.
But, despite attempts to satisfy both adults and children, for many the production will seem too different from the film (the obvious draw), and, at more than 2 1/2 hours, will be far too long for young children (an obvious target audience). Further, the productions slick style has little heart until the second act, where characters finally show some warmth, and some of the added scenes seem unnecessary padding.
At Tuesdays opening, Julianna Rigoglioso and Eli Tokask were well prepared as the Banks children, but their high-pitched voices were made mostly unintelligible by harsh miking. Madeline Trumbles Mary Poppins had all the right strictness and sly fun, but her voice took on an unpleasant edge and wobble in the roles many high-lying passages.
Con OShea-Creal made chimneysweep Bert winsome and humorous, emerging as the shows true star. Kerry Conte gave Mrs. Banks appealing dimension, and Karen Murphy played Miss Andrew with dragon-like zeal.
The show will best satisfy those who can leave off comparisons to the film and approach it as something completely new.