Theater review: ‘Poppins’ a fun, lively adaptation
That old Disney magic will once again have you under its spell in the latest stage production to hit Spokane, “Mary Poppins.”
Like Disney’s previous Broadway successes, “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” this production is high-quality and delightfully stunning in sight and sound.
The orchestra, directed by Daniel Bowling, and the national touring cast finely deliver Robert and Richard Sherman’s famous melodies as well as new material by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Incorporating aspects of P.L. Travers’ series of children’s books, the production takes some noticeable, though engaging, detours from the beloved 1964 film version starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.
For example, the carousel horses and penguin waiters in the “Jolly Holiday” scene are replaced by enchanted dancing statues and parasol-toting park-goers basking under a luminous, Van Gogh-like backdrop of fluorescent blooms.
The show boasts an impressive set design by Bob Crowley, chock-full of optical illusions and storybook-like illustrated backdrops. These include: the Banks’ turn-of-the-century London home that closes and unfolds like a gigantic pop-up book and the movie’s signature “bag of tricks” – when Poppins pulls a coat rack, wall clock and houseplant out of a seemingly empty carpetbag.
As the original “Supernanny,” Rachel Wallace portrays Poppins in a Julie Andrews-like fashion with vocal and theatrical expertise.
Prim and proper, she manages the Banks children, Jane and Michael (boisterously played by Marissa Ackerman and Zach Timson) with a firm yet loving hand and brings much needed chaotic relief to her employers’ painfully controlled household. Highly confident, she makes no apologies for her eccentricity. When her employer, George Banks (Michael Dean Morgan), asks her to explain some mysterious occurrences since her arrival to his home, she boldly declares, “I would like to make one thing quite clear … I never explain anything.”
Case Dillard is exceptional as Poppins’ easygoing longtime chum, Bert.
The Charlie Chaplin-like character delivers a gravity-defying rendition of “Step in Time.”
Dillard leads the ensemble of soot-covered, Oliver Twist-like chimney sweeps, in a bristle-twirling, toe-tapping jig that is even more exciting than the movie’s highly amusing version.
Other noteworthy performances include: Morgan as authoritative, constrained George Banks; Elizabeth Broadhurst’s more present and compassionate portrayal of the traditionally withdrawn Winifred Banks; and multiple performances by supporting cast member Q. Smith – first as the disheveled Bird Woman and second as Miss Andrew, Mr. Banks’ former tyrannical nanny. Smith maneuvers flawlessly through a wide range of vocal octaves and delivers a glass-shattering final note in “Brimstone and Treacle.”
The most memorable part of the show is the ensemble’s rapid-fire rendition of “Supercalifragilistic- expialidocious.” Adeptly in sync, the cast gestures the celebrated word like the “YMCA” dance with a level of difficulty multiplied by 100.