BWW Review: Georgetown Palace MARY POPPINS Delivers Disney Magic
P. L. Travers Mary Poppins magical nanny character was first published in 1934 and resulted in a series of eight children's books that ended in 1988. MARY POPPINS is a stage musical that uses the most iconic songs of The Sherman Brothers, with additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and a script by Julian Fellowes. The musical is a hybrid of Travers children's books and the 1964 Disney film, which fuses various elements from the two. I have some serious issues with the script, which I intend to discuss, but director Ron Watson and his talented cadre of technical artists produce pure 60's Disney magic.
Theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh met P.L. Travers in 1993 and acquired the rights to develop a stage play adaptation of her Mary Poppins books. She only agreed to a stage production as long as the creators were all English, and no one who had worked on the film. When Travers died in 1996, it opened the way for Mackintosh and the head of Disney Theatrical Thomas Schumacher's collaboration that uses some of the songs from the Disney film.
Now, we come to my problem with the script. The 1964 Disney film may have displeased Travers, but it was a film about redemption. Fellowes take on the structure, while being more faithful to Travers, takes the Disney animated musical structure, and gives Mary a villain to defeat and reduces Mary to Disney Princess status by using a former Nanny. The evil nanny is defeated in a song off battle. Or is that Ursala? Or Scar? OK, enough of my ranting about the script. On to why the Georgetown Palace production is so magical.
First and foremost, kudos to director Ron Watson, who handles this material with a clear reverence for the time period the film musical was created in. There was an acting style to those sixties films and his direction nails it. It doesn't take you back to the time period...but it sure does take you back to how the sixties did those films. The end result is utterly charming. His stage pictures are lovely and pacing sublime. He's aided greatly in this by the rest of the company. Kelsey Kimble gets a great sound out the the company against the canned music tracks and Jesse Smart's choreography is eye popping and her most impressive to date. The Music track is only severely annoying in vamp mode when a slow crew causes aural pain.
The set design by Michael Davis and Watson is endlessly creative and the nursery set has a lovely, pastel pop up book quality to it. Rich Simms projections support the set and stay with the bookish feel. The costumes, by A Cut Above Costumes, are perfect! The fying effects were done by Flying by Troy's flight director Bill Auld, and are the most effective and seamless use yet at the Palace. Faith Castaneda's lighting design is her most complex and sophisticated to date and pops. There are clearly people involved here at all levels who understand how to Stage fantasy.
There are some marvelous performances in this production. Scott Poppaw brings a wonderful sadness to Mr. Banks and Melissa Bergensen, as Mrs. Banks, has a marvelous singing voice and a truth to her character. Carly Wagner and Diego Rodriguez are a delight as Jane and Michael Banks. Jennifer Tucker is a scene stealer, in the best sense of the word, as Mrs. Brill.
Ismael Soto is perfection as Bert, the story telller, and gives a bang up British musical hall performance that includes a stunning flying sequence where he climbs the proscenium and sings part of one of the most technically difficult numbers upside down! Katya Welch is indeed practically perfect in every way, giving us a Poppins with a far away look in her eyes and the dancing skills to survive the Time Lord like battle with the evil Nanny Miss Andrew, performed with an operatic flair by newcomer Leah Knight. Knight does double duty as the bird woman. Alexandra Russo gives a funny turn as Miss Lark, and I don't know why they don't give this talented artist more to do.
Even with the faults, which are ingrown and dropped into the creative's laps, Ron Watson and the cadre at The Palace have created sheer theatrical magic with MARY POPPINS and the most fully integrated musical at The Palace to date! You should check this one out before it is sold out!
MARY POPPINS - Original Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, Book by Julian Fellowes, New Songs and Additional Music and Lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe Co-Created by Cameron Mackintosh
Running Time Two and a half hours, plus intermission
MARY POPPINS presented by the Georgetown Palace (810 South Austin Avenue)' Georgetown, TX, 78626
Fridays-Sundays, July 13 - August 19, 2018
Get tickets at www.georgetownpalace.com or by calling 512-869-7469.
Seniors (55+) / Military / Students-$29
Children (13 & younger) $15
$1 ticketing fee will be added per ticket at checkout.
Student Rush Tickets $18 at the door with student ID.
Standard and Premium Flex Passes can be used for this show.