Mary Poppins delights all ages at the Detroit Opera House

Photo courtesy DisneyCML


The Original United Kingdom tour cast of “Mary Poppins” performs “Supercalifragilisticexpialiodocious.”

By Sue Suchyta
The Broadway hit “Mary Poppins” flew into the Detroit Opera House at mid-month and will stay until the New Year heralds a change in the wind – or Jan. 2 to be precise.

“Practically perfect in every way” describes Poppins and just about everything in this delightful show save a few technical aspects that were needlessly complicated for a traveling road company. However, the opening weekend performance glitches – hopefully long gone – pale in the light of the bright stage magic that delights young and old alike.

Based on P.L. Travers’ cherished stories and the classic 1964 Walt Disney film, the stage play features the Academy Award-winning music and lyrics of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.

Most of us think of Disney and Julie Andrews when “Mary Poppins” is mentioned. Travers, however, had Poppins talking to birds before J.K. Rowlings ever sent Harry Potter his first owl. She also has the magical nanny use an umbrella instead of a Quiddich broom to fly about.

However, Mary’s use of magic is much more discrete than her Hogwarts followers. Poppins is playful for the most part, lifting spirits and providing fun-filled adventures.

The Poppins magic may create a few scary toys, but what adult really could resist conjuring up some supernatural surprises if it were within their power to get a kid to clean up their room?

The magical nanny’s words and surprises tilt the ordinary world on its axis, enabling those she chooses to see their lives differently and then in turn affect their own changes.

Much of the stage magic appears in song and dance. From big, bold chorus numbers on the rooftops to quiet ballads, you’ll fall in love with the story through the songs and steps.

Many numbers are larger than life – “Step in Time” on the rooftops, “Jolly Holiday,” where the park outing takes a delightful turn, and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Color correlates with much of the magic as well. The costumes and sets in the fanciful field trips are bright and vital, while the backdrops of coal-burning, turn-of-the-century London are realistically grimy and gray.

The show does have a few significant changes from the movie. More explanations are provided for the family’s dysfunctional mode – especially Mr. Banks’ repressed personality, which is attributed to an abusive nanny and his parents’ emotional neglect.

The play is set at the turn of the century – not in the later suffragette era. Mrs. Banks is a former actress — scandalous for that era — and is shunned by society, leaving her isolated and unsure of her place in the household. The movie mother simply substitutes her cause (“votes for women”) for her children and is painted as scattered and spineless.

However, while adults may see the fuller psychological picture, kids will savor the story’s fun.

Statues in their neighborhood park come to life, toys take over the nursery, and the siblings discover a magical world in the rooftops above their home. Children who are used to green screen movie magic can still appreciate stage surprises that real people bring to life right before them.

While few stage stars achieve the name recognition of television icons, the talented actors in “Mary Poppins” add their unique creativity and energy to make the performances shine.

Caroline Sheen, the original United Kingdom tour star of “Mary Poppins” is paired with Nicolas Dromard, who was in the original Broadway company and who plays Bert.

Laird Mackintosh plays the father, George Banks, while Blythe Wilson is endearing as the mother, Winifred Banks.

The role of Jane is shared by Camille Mancuso and Paige Simunovich, while Talon Ackerman and Cade Canon Ball alternate as Michael Banks. The talented children are sure to inspire many of their young contemporaries who dream of a life on the stage.

Tickets are priced starting at $25 and are on sale at the Fisher Theatre box office and all Ticketmaster locations. Tickets also are available online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.BroadwayInDetroit.com, and by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787. For group sales (20 or more) call (313) 871-1132 or e-mail groups@broadwayindetroit.com.

For additional information, call (313) 872-1000 or go to www.BroadwayinDetroit.com.

The Detroit Opera House is at 1526 Broadway in Detroit.

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