Under Her Umbrella, Eh?

Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus

“Mary Poppins,” the hit Broadway Musical, is definitely not to be missed as one of the greatest attractions to experience as summer wraps up. This wonderful production is playing at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa until Aug. 7, with ticket prices starting at $22.50. The show is an adaptation of the “Mary Poppins” series of novels by Pamela Travers and of course the 1964 motion picture, which won the Disney franchise and the most Oscars from any single one of its legendary movies.

People should not make the mistake of missing out on this show because the Walt Disney film was so iconic and cannot be touched. The musical theater experience incorporates elements from the movie, but there are certain qualities that only the live theater can deliver. The lavish production numbers for the songs “Step in Time” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” are extravagant, and allow for even the most cynical people to have a toe-tapping fun time.

Don’t allow the cliché of thinking that Mary Poppins is a children’s story about a magical nanny deter you from checking out this show. This musical brings out the inner child in all of us. Each character is rich in personality and contributes to the story’s theme of raising children appropriately.

The vintage costumes helped to depict an historical era of the city – when women wore long, heavy dresses that almost touched the ground and men wore tall top hats and coats with long tails. The attire gave the characters personality and swept the audience from modern times into the past. Costumes are changed extremely quickly; it took less than 30 seconds for Mary to change from her blue coat dress to her pink dress during the musical number “Jolly Holiday.”

The sets ranged from a simple childrens’ bedroom to an elaborate rooftop with smoking chimneys. It takes nearly three days to load the show into each new theater. The enormous 11,000-pound Banks House along with the 7,000-pound roof and nursery requires 14 trucks to transport between cities. The show utilizes many hundreds of moving lights, dimmers and lighting fixtures. The combination of lighting and makeup is done so perfectly that what appeared to be real statues were actually live actors who had magical characteristics and danced up a storm.

We are very lucky to even have this hit Broadway musical at all. Walt Disney tried to convince the author, P.L. Travers, for 20 years before he would allow Disney’s studio to make the movie. When the movie finally did come out, Travers thought her story had been too “Disneyized” with animation and songs. Even though she became a very wealthy woman from the motion picture, she would not allow Disney to obtain rights to bring the musical to the stage.

Finally, after many decades, producer Cameron Mackintosh was able to persuade her to allow him to make the theatre version. Mackintosh then partnered with Disney so that the beloved character of Mary Poppins could come to Broadway with “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and the other memorable songs from the legendary songwriting team of the Sherman brothers. Several new songs, like “Practically Perfect,” were also created by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe to complement the movie songs.

The Disney magic is definitely still there as Bert, the central male protagonist, walks sideways on the walls and completely upside down on the ceiling. Anyone who knows any aspect about the story expects Mary Poppins to fly. However, there is still complete amazement at the breathtaking sight of her ascension over the audience and away into the sky at the show’s conclusion. This musical stays true to the message of being able to achieve anything through positive thoughts and actions. Though the story is originally an English story, it is still very relatable to the melting pot of American culture because of its universal sentimental appeal of imagination.

Overall, this production of Mary Poppins was extremely well done. Just like one of the new songs written for this musical, it is “Practically Perfect.” The play’s theme of raising kids appropriately has a universal appeal. With all of the lively action and details in this production, the crowd was on its feet during the final bows in which the cast gives a medley of the more memorable songs from the musical.

Even though more kids these days know “Dora the Explorer” more than any of the classic characters from Mary Poppins, this is still an amazing method to reintroduce these legendary characters from fading away into obscurity. “Mary Poppins” will make you smile, laugh, dance and most importantly also allow for introspection of how important it is to value family relationships.

*There are discounted student rush tickets available on certain performances. Use the promo code “DISNEY” to save 35% to 50% on purchasing tickets online at SCTFA.org or at the Segerstrom Center Box Office.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars