REVIEW: It’s a ‘Jolly Holiday’ with Mary Poppins
The U.S. tour of “Mary Poppins,” which opened Tuesday night at the Durham Performing Arts Center for a six-day run, brings a colorful, fun burst of musical theater to audiences this week of Valentine’s Day.
Let’s talk about the set first. Without giving too much away, the house on Cherry Tree Lane where the Banks family lives and the title nanny works is fantastic. In fact, its appearance drew mid-scene scattered applause from a pleased audience. The way it opens on stage, moves on stage, looks on stage – everything that piece of scenery does is a lesson to other set designers. It’s unexpectedly delightful. The creative team deserves extra applause for not just the house, but other designs like the twinkling stars, giant umbrella and the technical prowess it takes to make someone take flight.
Most of us are already familiar with the story of “Mary Poppins,” through the book by P.L. Travers or, more likely, the 1964 Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. If you’re expecting a staged replica of the movie, then think again. It keeps what it should from the movie but adds what it needs to strengthen the show as a musical. Some songs are a little different, and more are added. All your favorites are there – “Jolly Holiday,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” The adapted versions include a fun, rainbow spectacular dance number for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” The colorful costumes and set burst from the stage.
Madeline Trumble as Mary Poppins makes the role her own, a magical nanny with humor and assertion. Con O’Shea-Creal is a great, personable Bert, Mary’s friend and jack-of-all-trades. O’Shea-Creal, Trumble and the rest of the cast deliver multiple fun musical numbers. In between, there are a few slowed down, serious scenes like Winifred Banks (Kerry Conte, with a beautiful voice) considering her role as Mrs. Banks, and George Banks (Chris K. Hoch) considering his place in life as well. A scene with the children’s toys reminds the children to be grateful for what they have, and features a life-sized, somewhat creepily costumed version of a clown toy. There are moments in “Mary Poppins” that remind audiences about work and life balance and attitudes toward both.
Another accomplishment of staging is Mr. Banks’ bank, which has an imaginative perspective of the bank’s interior and its bent-back bean counters. Hoch does a great job as the work-focused father who lets his inner child peek out.
The best of “Mary Poppins” comes together with the rousing “Step In Time,” featuring the tap-dancing troupe of chimney sweeps that deliver a memorable performance. It makes you wish you had your own group of chimney sweeps to sing and dance with you as you walk down the street – or step along the rooftops.
This is a fun show. Go see it and have a good time.
WHAT: Broadway tour of “Mary Poppins”
WHEN: Through Sunday
WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St., Durham