Review: "Mary Poppins"

October 1, 2010
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The most magical thing about "Mary Poppins"--the Disney musical that is in the midst of the Indy stop on its national tour--isn't the "Jolly Holiday" stroll through the park or the iconic slide up the banister. It isn't the flight of the famed nanny and it isn't the way Bert dances up the side of the stage and across the top.

The most magical thing is the fact that the producers of this mega-musical have allowed its actors to actually act.

That's not saying the "Mary Poppins" is "A Streetcar Named Desire." The roles here don't demand heavy lifting. But there's an unfortunate tendency in some tours to expect their casts to slavishly recreate their predecessors in the roles. (If you saw last season's "A Chorus Line," you witnessed an extreme case of that problem.) I, for one, would much rather see actors rather than reenactors.

And so Mr. and Mrs. Banks come to life. So does Poppins--who the creators wisely allow to remain cryptic.

And while Bert can't quite fill the shoes of Dick Van Dyke--who could?--he's his own man. Best of all, the two Banks children are outstanding, tireless, and charming in near-constantly-onstage parts.

Does that make "Mary Poppins" a great musical? Not really. There's a tendency to replace some of the movie's joy-for-joy's-sake fun with messages and morals. The toys-coming-to-life sequence falls completely flat and "Step in Time" doesn't quite explode the way it should. Still, it triumphs over such recent Broadway in Indianapolis efforts to reach the same market, including "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "101 Dalmatians."

It's easy to credit the sets and the songs and the source material. I'm crediting the cast.

Your thoughts?

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  • Merry Poppins
    I saw this production earlier in its tour run - with the original Broadway leads. The most over-the-top touring production I've seen in 30 years of Bway and tours... - different from the Broadway set, etc.. - but perhaps better for it. Though the show may not be the greatest, the production (and leads) were fantastic.

    Shame that Indy became the first tour city to have its run cut short - when the schedule 3 week stand was reduced to 2 weeks due (presumably) to slower-than-expected ticket sales. This show has been moderately successful on the road (but not the Lion King like sellout Disney likely envisioned) - and is probably extremely costly to run in salaries and production costs. Even in the best tour cities (St. Louis, Cleveland, Denver), the show has struggled to get anywhere near the ticket sales that a show like Wicked does on its 2nd or 3rd visit to a city...
  • Thoughts...
    I saw this on tour last year in Cincinnati, and really enjoyed it. I again enjoyed it, but perhaps not so much, here in Indy last week. The changes don't really bother me (from the movie), as they were made to tie to the original novels. I kind of enjoy the darker moments as an added new layer.

    What I do find troublesome, and it's not just this show, is that I find the sound quality on the tours in Indy pretty rough. Consistently, both at Clowes and the Murat, no matter where I've been seated, the orchestration completely overpowers the singers often during shows. I think that some thought needs to be given to the fact that the text might be important for the audience to hear. It's like it's a rock concert, with no vocals.

    However, I did enjoy the show, and I agree that the actors did some good work taking some characters that could have been 2-dimensional and fleshing them out.
  • Cancelled?
    Does anyone know why so many Mary Poppins shows have been cancelled?

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