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Mary Poppins: The Stage Show (Review)

June 9, 2012

If you are going to see this show be prepared that the story-line and some characters are different from the film.  I do wish I had known this little fact before going so that I didn’t spend the entire performance making comparisons.

The film is perfection … why mess with it?   For example, who was this other Nanny that Mary Poppins had to ‘eliminate’ to get her position back!  I needed an explanation.   As soon as I came home from the show I did some research on the original characters that are in the books and all became clear.  Theatre Producer, Sir Cameron Macintosh, has taken some elements from the film and other’s from the books and mixed it up.  This will be a little confusing for people who have grown up on the film and know it word for word, like me.  I know, I’m an adult and should be more open minded but it was an odd experience.

Original book cover for Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers.

I wasn’t in love with the fountain statues replacing the penguins in ‘A Jolly Holiday’ and I  know my kids were looking forward to hearing ‘I love to laugh’ but it has been removed from the musical.  For me, the most disappointing character was Mrs Banks.  I didn’t like the new songs that have been written for her character.  I love ‘Sister Sufferagette’ from the film where her character is silly and funny but in the show this song has been removed and Mrs Banks is a weaker character trying to find her position in life and understanding her role as wife to Mr Banks.

Glynis Johns playing Mrs Banks in the 1964 film of Mary Poppins.

Bert (played by Dick Van Dyke) dancing with Penguins during ‘A Jolly Holiday’ in the 1964 film, Mary Poppins.

But, this show is definitely worth seeing.  Mary Poppins played by Rachel Wallace was utterly amazing!  Her voice belted out across the theatre with great ease and she played the character perfectly.  In fact, all the characters were excellent.  I only heard one or two slip ups with the cockney accent!  The chimney sweep scene for ‘Step In Time’ was brilliant and so much fun to watch.  The crowd favorite was definitely Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious where the cast did an amazing dance routine.  Stage children can sometimes give me the shivers but the actors who played Jane and Michael Banks seemed to managed their characters without sounding too precocious.  The scenery was fantastic and definitely some of the best I’ve seen in a stage show – original and magical and the costumes were sumptuous.  In fact, the entire cast was of a very high quality, probably the best I’ve seen in a musical … at least for a long time.

Rachel Wallace as Mary Poppins

The Banks Family home in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

Chimney Sweep scene in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

‘Step in Time’

Unlike Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast stage show which is almost exactly like the film, Walt Disney’s stage show of  Mary Poppins is not.   It is to be expected that people will compare the stage show to the film so I highly recommend reading some of the stories from the books to give a different prospective on the characters and story lines.  As musicals go, it doesn’t get much better than this but I was expecting a stage version of the film so I came out of the theatre feeling a little disappointed.

Mary Poppins at San Jose Theatre of Performing Arts.

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