Disney’s Mary Poppins still magical, but not exactly what you may remember
Thursday, February 17th was an almost sold out opening night for Disney’s new musical, “Mary Poppins” playing at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston’s theatre district. It began with a bang…or rather a fire drill minutes into act one. However, the interruption was no match for the poise and charisma that exuded from the actress portraying Mary Poppins, Steffanie Leigh. Faced with the challenge of how to continue or in this case not, with a firm head nod, Leigh in mid-song exclaimed, “Spit spot, off you go,” and led two children off stage. Almost a full thirty minutes later, the stage lights came up and Leigh continued quite possibly from the very note she left off – practically perfectly.
Mary Poppins is a classic tale of a mysterious Nanny who changes the lives of the Banks family in the year 1910. The Banks family, played by Michael Dean Morgan as George, Blythe Wilson as Winifred, Camille Mancuso as Jane and Talon Ackerman as Michael all gave solid performances. Nicholas Dromand was charming and sweet as Bert, the everyman chimney sweep, and added humor and warmth to every scene. However, Steffanie Leigh as Mary Poppins gave a tremendous performance. From the swish of her head, the high step in her walk, the sharpness in her tongue to her soaring vocals, Leigh exceeded my expectations even as visions of Julie Andrews danced in my head.
New musical s such as “Wicked” and “Legally Blonde” set new standards for complicated, yet extraordinary set designs and Mary Poppins was no exception. The Banks residence had never been so dynamic, multi-dimensional, and reminiscent of a young girl’s dream house. The bright and colorful set pieces stretched space and dimension so broadly, it is a wonder whether your eyes are playing tricks on you.
The dance numbers were superb as a roof was literally raised for the chimney sweep showstopper, “Step in Time” and as quietly stirring during the classic lullaby, “Feed the Birds.”
However, despite the amazing special effects and wonderful casting, be forewarned that Mary Poppins is not the same as the 1964 musical film. As a traditionalist, some of the changes were a bit disappointing. Changes seem to be made to shorten the show, but some of the classic tunes such as “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” ran a bit long, possibly to add a sing-a-long quality and delightful songs such as “I Love to Laugh” were left by the wayside.
Disney’s Mary Poppins is playing through Sunday, March 20th at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston’s theatre district. Visit www.broadwayacrossboston.com for tickets and further information.