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SAN JOSÉ LOVES “MARY POPPINS
By Iride Aparicio
 Pictures by:  Deen Van Meer

Mary Poppins
Rachel Wallace as “Mary Poppins”

San Jose, CA-Mary Poppins, the mystical magical nanny, “popped”  into existence as the principal character in a seven-sequel of children’s books series written by  actress and Australian Journalist  Pamela Lyndon Travers  better known as P. L. Travers (1899-l996). Written from  l934 to l982, all  her books about Mary Poppins  were published in London, Except  Mary Poppins and the House Next door, her last one,  that was published seven years before her death  by Delacorte Press in New York.

The Mary Poppins books have been adapted many times: in l964, as “Mary Poppins” a Walt Disney musical film with music by Robert B Sherman, Richard M. Sherman  and George Stiles, lyrics by ROBERT B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and Anthony Drewe and book by Julian Fellowes. Actress Julie Andrews, who played the role of Mary in the film, won the Oscar® for Best Actress that year. That year, was also the birth of the stage production of   “Mary Poppins”  a musical that  was produced in London’s West End.

With not exactly humble sayings  such as “As I expected,  (I am) practically perfect in every way” others witty: “First of all I want to make one thing quite clear, I never explain anything” and others wise: “Anything can happen if you let it.” the character of Mary Poppins, who is able to conjure “magical worlds”  solve people’s problems and fly over London  holding a bag in one hand and  an umbrella in the other, was instantly loved by everyone. So it was not surprising that the Broadway San Jose stage adaptation of the musical “Mary Poppins” that is being presented at the S. J. Center for the Performing Arts, received a standing ovation on its opening night.

With the original music and lyrics, book by Fellowes, and new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe,  one could say that this co-creation of Cameron Mackintosh produced for Disney theatrical productions by Thomas Schumacher, excels the movie.  One reason is that two of the principal characters, Winifred Banks (Elizabeth Broadhurst) and George Banks (Michael Dean Morgan) her husband, have been rounded by the writers by expanding their roles and  giving them additional dialogue, as a result, their problems with each other and their children Jane(Cherish Myers) and Michael (Zach Timson) seem more real..

In this musical, added to the characters of Mary Poppins the movie, are Miss Andrew and  Bird woman (both roles played  by Q Smith) Queen Victoria (Tonya Thompson) and Neleus, Neptune’s son (Benn Atkins) which we could call the dancing statue.

The principal characters in the show, however, are still Mary (played by Rachel Wallace) and Bert (Case Dillard) pictured below, who in this production have a more flirtatious relation,  There is also the Banks family.

Mary Poppins 2

The show starts with Bert, coming our of a Chimney on a house’s roof singing “Chim Chim Cher-ee and changes immediately to the Cherry Tree Lane Banks’ family mansion where Mrs. Banks ((Elizabeth Broadhurst) is being informed by her Nanny, Katie Nanna (Elizabeth Ann Berg) that she is leaving,  wants her wages immediately , and that both the Banks’ children Jane (Cherish Myers) and Michael (Zach Timson) are missing.

The children are returned by the police, Nanna leaves and after George Banks (Michael Dean Morgan) recites to his family the rules for an English house (where a man must always act as the  head of the family) and rips the paper where her children had written all the qualifications they want for their new nanny, Mary Poppins (Rachel Wallace) pops in inside the living room of the house, holding in her hand the paper that George had just  ripped and  tossed in the fire to burn’

As a whole, for its effects, which include the lighting design(Natasha Katz) the sound design (Paul Groothuis) the Scenic and Costume design (Bob Crowley) and the Direction of Richard Eyre, this production may only be described as “magic” One reason are the magnificent sets: the Bank’s mansion, the roofs,  the park, the interior of the bank, to name a few, all looking realistic, but that may be changed in a matter of seconds.

There was also “magic” in the acting, specially the acting of Mary (Wallace) who went through her part flawlessly on that night, dancing with rhythm and singing all her songs in a mellow strong voice. Her acting was very natural as was her “magic”  which include getting a full-size  hat hanger, a mirror and a pot with flowers from inside her bag, and crossing the stage flying.

Magical also was the acting of Bert, (Case Dillard) who carried his tunes well, was dynamic in his dancing and at times, even acted flirtatious with Mary.

The role of George Banks, the banker  in this production was human, and Morgan played his role well.  His dialogue allowed him to reveal to the audience how sad his life was when he was a child. His revelation, also made us understand why he acts so cold towards his children. George was raised by a nanny, Miss Andrew (Q Smith), that was stern, and taught him nothing but to follow her strict rules. As a result, George never learned how to show love to anyone.  George acts cold towards his family until the day he brakes the vase containing  a star (Which brings his back to his past when he wanted to be an astronomer) and finds the Kite, that Mary had deposited on the floor. It is then when he realizes what is really important in life. 

On her part, Winifred (Broadhurst) who in the movie version is presented as a stereotype of a new suffragette more interested in politics  that in her missing children, in this musical, as represented by Broadhurst  is a loving wife and mother who cares for both her children and is willing to make sacrifices when she learns that George was demoted in the bank and may even get fired.

Both the children (Myers and Timpson) acted realistically and sang their songs in tune. A beautiful voice in the show that night was the voice of Q Smith in her role of the Bird Lady singing  feed the birds, in her other role as  Miss Andrews  however, her character can only be described as “A terror” Both natural and funny was the the acting of Mrs. Brill (Tregoney Shepherd) trying to cope with all the chimneys’ cleaners running around the house and with the magic of Mary putting her kitchen in order by pointing a finger.

With songs like A Spoonful of sugar and, Anything can happen among others,  dynamic dancing ensembles for chim chim cher-ee and Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious, wonderful acting and  beautiful songs, Mary Poppins is the type of entertainment  that gives every one an imaginary spoonful of happiness.

Mary Poppins will play until June 10.  For tickets call at 408 792-4111 or order them online http://broadwaysanjose.com 

MARY POPPINS PREVIEW

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B-Roll Courtesy of Broadway San Jose