Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County presents the Disney, Cameron Mackintosh, and NETworks Presentation's Broadway Across America production of Mary Poppins. The musical is based on a series of children's books written by Australian born author P.L. Travers, and the 1964 Walt Disney film of the same name. It features original music and lyrics by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman, and a book by Julian Fellowes, with new songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The original production of Mary Poppins opened in December of 2004 in London's West End, and received two Olivier Awards. Following the success of the West End production, a Broadway production debuted on November 16, 2006, at the New Amsterdam Theatre. It received seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, winning one for Best Scenic Design.
The musical features a combination of various aspects from both the Disney film and the Travers books. Purists of the movie may find some moments surprising. Some fanciful aspects of the books omitted from the film are featured in the stage musical, such as Neleus the talking statue and Mrs. Corry the mystical candy store owner. At the same time, some aspects of the film, such as the "I Love To Laugh" scene with Uncle Albert, have been omitted. Nursery toys eerily brought to life near the end of the first act provide an unexpectedly nightmarish twist. The addition of the mystical Mrs. Corry with her Jamaican accent, and her outlandishly costumed cohorts seems sorely out of place, but is redeemed by an energetically performed, creatively choreographed, and exceedingly memorable rendition of the song "Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious."
This touring production features wonderful scenic design. As the curtain rises, the exterior of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Banks unfolds like a pop-up card to reveal the interior of the house. Scene transitions throughout the show have the pleasant sense of a reveal about them. A kitchen that disastrously falls apart, miraculously puts itself back together. On the night attended there were a couple of weak lighting moments in the first act, and the microphones on Jane and Michael Banks were lacking in clarity at the top of the first act, making it difficult to understand them. It might have helped had they slowed down their lines as well. The costuming and makeup come together artfully with the living statues who reside in the park, and in the scene with Mrs. Corry.
Madeline Trumble is a lovely Mary Poppins, especially in songs such as "Practically Perfect" and "A Spoonful of Sugar." She has a sometimes distracting warble of a vibrato, however, that feels like it takes over held notes. She, as well as Madison Mullahey (Jane Banks), disappointingly also have the most inconsistent English accents in the show. Con O'Shea-Creal is charming as Bert, and filled with great energy, though he seems a bit young for the role. Ben Cherry as George Banks and Elizabeth Broadhurst as Winifred Banks each have nice, heartfelt moments individually in "A Man Has Dreams" and "Being Mrs. Banks," but no believable chemistry together. Tregoney Shepherd is heavy handed in her portrayal of housekeeper Mrs. Brill. What may have been intended as spunky comes off as so coarse she seems to be playing Madame Thenardier in Les Misérables. It actually weakens the appearance of our "villainess" Miss Andrews (Karen Murphy). Murphy does double duty as both Miss Andrews and the Bird Woman. As Miss Andrews, she needs to be biggermore melodramatic with her acting choicesin order to sell the supposedly evil nature of this character. The song "Brimstone and Treacle" is an acting piece in which most character actors would indulgently revel rather than just get through. She also struggles noticeably with the high notes at the end of song. There is a faded, aged glory to her Bird Woman, however, and her singing of "Feed The Birds" is indeed heartwarming.
A live orchestra plays the music to this familiar score beautifully. Choreography is top notch, whether danced by the lovely sculpted bodies of the park statues, by the joyous chimney sweeps in "Step In Time," or in the nearly frenetic "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." To top it all off, Mary Poppins arrives and departs from the sky above, with umbrella held high aloft just as one would expect. The most magically memorable moment of all is watching Bert walk up the side of the proscenium arch, dance, and sing upside-down from the proscenium ceiling, and walk back down the other side!
The Sherman brothers received two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins: Best Music, Score-Substantially Original, and Best Original Song for "Chim Chim Cher-ee," as well as a Grammy Award for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture or Television Show. The brothers are best known for their work with Walt Disney, in particular for writing the song "It's A Small World." Together they have written more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history. Their work includes Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Parent Trap, Charlotte's Web and Snoopy, Come Home. Among the many honors for their contributions to the motion picture industry, they were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 9, 2005, and received the National Medal of Arts on November 17, 2008.
Mary Poppins is scheduled to appear through January 6, 2013 in the Sanford and Delores Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. The Arsht is located at 1300 N. Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Florida, and houses the 2,400 seat Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House, as well as the 2,200 seat John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, and the 300 seat Carnival Studio Theater. For information, or to purchase tickets for the many diverse offering of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, you may contact them at 305-949-6722, or visit them online at www.arschtcenter.org. For more information on the tour, please visit www.marypoppins.com.
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County is made possible by the public support of the Miami-Dade County Major and the Board of County Commissioners, the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, and the Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council. It also receives generous support from private and corporate contributions to the Performing Arts Center Foundation of Greater Miami through it's Membership Program, the City of Miami Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, the Dade Community Foundation, The MAP-Fund, the Sate of Florida, the Department of State, the Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Broadway Across America - Miami is presented in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over five million tickets to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information or to purchase tickets through an authorized agent, please visit www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.
*The actors and stage manager in this production are members of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.