BWW Review: North Carolina Theatre's MARY POPPINS
Based on the children's novels by P.L. Travers as well as the classic 1964 Walt Disney film of the same name, Mary Poppins tells the story of a nanny who arrives on the doorstep of the Jane & Michael Banks. Mary Poppins takes the children on many magical and memorable adventures, but Jane and Michael aren't the only ones upon whom she has a profound effect. Using a combination of magic and common sense, Mary Poppins must teach the family members how to value each other again.
When famed British theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh acquired the rights from P.L. Travers to develop a stage musical out of her work in 1993, she agreed only on the condition that no one from the Walt Disney film would be allowed to work on it and that he hired an all British team (you can learn more about her comradery with Walt Disney in the 2013 biographical film, Saving Mr. Banks). While Mackintosh did agree to Travers' conditions, he still went into business with Disney Theatrical Productions so that the stage musical would incorporate songs from the film. The stage musical premiered in London's West End on December 15th, 2004 and ran for three years after closing on January 12th, 2008. It transferred to Broadway on November 16th, 2006 and ran for six years after closing on March 3rd, 2013.
I've never read any of the books by P.L. Travers, but I do think there are plenty of familiar things for fans of the film in the adaptation by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes along with some new elements he incorporated into it. The new songs by George Stiles & Anthony Drewe also blend seamlessly well with the old songs by Robert & Richard Sherman.
Among the very talented cast, Kara Lindsay brings her own sweetness and soul to the title character; The role of Bert in the stage adaptation serves as narrator of the show, delivered with a charismatic performance by Nicolas Dromard; Riley Rose Campbell & Micah Boan are both very well cast as the Banks kids, Jane & Michael; Gary Milner very successfully goes on a character arc as George Banks; Lisa Brescia gives a very heartfelt performance as Winifred Banks; and Jane Blass is very terrifying as the strict nanny, Miss Andrew.
Under the direction of Eric Woodall, this production also features some very skillful choreography by Ryan Kasprzak and some colorful stage pictures. It would be hard to single one of them out as they all work so well as a team. From Charlie Morrison's lighting to Timothy R. Mackabee's sets and the costumes supplied by Meredith Scott.
While I might have noticed a few technical hiccups during the performance, I'm sure things will be tidied up throughout the week. Nonetheless, audiences of all ages should have a wonderful time at North Carolina Theatre with Mary Poppins!