Triviana

Mary Poppins
Deen van Meer / Disney and Cameron Mackintosh
Rachel Wallace as Mary Poppins
and Case Dillard as Bert in "Mary Poppins."

The wind blows 'Mary Poppins' into San Jose

Touring company version of the Broadway show is long, but has many charming moments

Reviewed by John Orr
Triviana, June 2012

The bounce at "Mary Poppins: The Hit Broadway Musical" is from big, delighted smiles, laughter and applause, to yawns.

It's a long show that could use an editor. At the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, the show began at 8:02 p.m. and didn't end till about 10:40 p.m. For some shows, that kind of length can be accepted. Not for this one.

There are delightful bits. "Jolly Holiday," for instance, is purely fabulous. Bert, the chimney sweep, street artist and would-be boyfriend of

What: ''Mary Poppins''
A musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film
Staged by: Broadway San Jose
When: Through June 10, 2012
Where: San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Blvd. San Jose
Running time: 160 minutes (15-minute intermission)
Tickets: $20-$75; 408-792-4111, www.broadwaysanjose.com

Mary Poppins, leads this song, accompanied by stunning stagecraft that turns a misty gray London park into something bright and colorful from a 1960s flower-child poster. The song itself, adapted for this stage version from the original Sherman Brothers tune for the 1964, is fun. Then there are moments when, yawn, let's get through this, please and move on to something else.

The musical, which started in London's West End, then went to New York's Broadway, is a combination of material from the books by Australian Pamela Lyndon Travers and the Disney movie, which was written by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi, based on the Travers books.

The movie works better, for the most part. For one thing, Mrs. Banks has something to do to explain why she isn't spending more time with her children: She is a suffragette.

In the stage play, the closest she comes to explaining herself is "Being Mrs. Banks," when she talks about how she'd rather have her friends over (stage actors and the like) instead of the people that would help her husband's career at the bank.


Mary Poppins
Deen van Meer / Disney and Cameron Mackintosh
Rachel Wallace as Mary Poppins
in "Mary Poppins."

But, still, there are plenty of fun moments, and Rachel Wallace is probably about as good a Mary Poppins as anybody other than Julie Andrews can be.

There is only one Julie Andrews, and we have the comfort of being able to see her brilliant "Mary Poppins" on DVD anytime we want.

Wallace is a great looking Mary Poppins. Something about her square-jawed face and controlled demeanor that doesn't quite hide her constant wink. Her walk, her bearing are excellent, and makes all the magic work.

Her only weakness is her voice. For the most part, she has an acceptable Broadway stage voice and hits most of the right notes. But her voice all too often lacks beauty and warmth, and at times makes harsh hash of some notes. On key, but too hard-edged to be enjoyable. Ouch.

The set and props drew several well-earned bits of applause from the audience. When Mary Poppins first unpacks her satchel in front of the amazed children, Jane and Michael, there were laughs of great appreciation. Pulling a 5-foot hat stand out of the little satchel, for instance, and the bit when Mary and Jane take a limp bedcover out and spread it in mid-air, where it becomes a solid bed, were charming.

Ancient stagecraft, sure, but it works.

The scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley are fabulous, helped along by Natasha Katz' lighting design.

When the house at Cherry Tree lane emerges from a flat, gray street scene and becomes a home, the audience applauded. Other enthusiastic hands broke out for the "Jolly Holiday" scene, and when Bert walks the 30 feet or so up the side of the stage, across the top of the stage, dangling head down, and back to earth on the other side of the stage.

One of the new songs written for the stage version is like a mini-exemplar of what's wrong with this show. The song is too long, but as performed by the great Q. Smith as Miss Andrew, has a fabulous and hilarious moment. Cut out the dull, repetitive stuff, keep the great moment.

The cast, overall, is excellent. Case Dillard has been playing Bert for years now, and is charming and fun in the role. Michael Dean Morgan is George Banks, Elizabeth Broadhurst is Winifred Banks. At the Saturday evening show, Marissa Ackerman was Jane and Zachary Mackiewicz was Michael. (At alternate shows, Cherish Myers is Jane and Zach Timson is Michael.)

Ryan Hilliard is both Admiral Boom and the Bank Chairman, and gets one of the show's better laughs in the latter role.

One of the show's loveliest moments comes from Tonya Thompson as the Bird Woman, with the tune "Feed the Birds."

One of the new songs at least expresses one of the fine ideas of the tales of Mary Poppins: "Anything Can Happen."

A good philosophy, that, right alongside "A Spoonful of Sugar" and, of course, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocous."

The show has an unusually long run at Broadway San Jose. It opened on May 29 and closes on June 10. Go ahead, "Feed the Birds." See it.

Mary Poppins
Deen van Meer / Disney and Cameron Mackintosh
Case Dillard as Bert and the company of "Mary Poppins"
perform "Step in Time."

 
Mary Poppins
Deen van Meer / Disney and Cameron Mackintosh
Rachel Wallace as Mary Poppins, center, Case Dillard as Bert,
and the company of "Mary Poppins" perform the
absolutely delightful "Jolly Holiday" number.


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