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Disney and Cameron Mackintosh Present "Mary Poppins": A Musical at New Amsterdam Theatre
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Disney and Cameron Mackintosh Present "Mary Poppins": A Musical at New Amsterdam Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Cameron Mackintosh
Mary Poppins
A Musical Based on P.L. Travers Stories
and the Walt Disney Film
(Mary Poppins Website)
New Amsterdam Theatre
42nd St. and Broadway

Laura Michelle Kelly, Christian Borle, Jeff Binder
Kristin Carbone, Ann Arvia, Mark Price
Ruth Gottschall, Jonathan Freeman, and
Valerie Boyle

And an Ensemble of Actors/Singers/Dancers

Directed by Richard Eyre
Co-Direction and Choreography by Matthew Bourne
Original Book by Julian Fellowes
Original Music and Lyrics by
Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
New Songs, Additional Music & Lyrics by
George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Co-created by Cameron Mackintosh
Produced for Disney Theatrical Productions by
Thomas Schumacher
Music Supervisor: David Caddick
Music Director: Brad Haak
Orchestrations by William David Brohn
Broadway Sound Design: Steve Canyon Kennedy
Dance and Vocal Arrangements: George Stiles
Co-Choreographer: Stephen Mear
Scenery and Costume Design: Bob Crowley
Lighting Design: Howard Harrison

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 2, 2010

(See an After-Show Dinner at Seven Bar and Grill)

I have to admit, I’m a long-time fan of Disney cartoons, especially the old musical films, and the 1964 Mary Poppins movie is one of my favorites. The Disney – Cameron Mackintosh produced, Broadway Musical on 42nd Street, Mary Poppins, seen with my six year-old niece, was “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”! You get it. I was swept up in the music, the fantasy, the feel-good nanny lectures, the statues come to life, and the dancing chimney sweeps. Laura Michelle Kelly, as Mary Poppins, flies up and down the banister of the expansively built Banks household, and she even flew over our heads up into the balcony. Of course, she’s the charismatic antidote to the stuffy George Banks (Jeff Binder), the banker who doesn’t hug and kiss his family, but treats them like his militarized staff at the bank. Kristin Carbone was today’s elegant and needy Winifred Banks, with Matthew Schecter as Michael Banks and Juliette Allen Angelo as Jane Banks, kids with dolls and toys that come to life and sing and dance.

Christian Borle, as Bert, head Chimney Sweep, who can tap dance up and down walls and ceiling, defying gravity and energizing the cast, was outstanding. He has the wiriness and attitude of a Broadway star on the rise, and he was the glue that would re-appear again and again to sing with gusto and dance with athleticism. Another big surprise was Ruth Gottschall, as Queen Victoria, Miss Smythe, and Miss Andrew, all charismatic characters with Bea Arthur-styled presence. Mark Price, as Robertson Ay, the Banks family’s butler, who has enthralling song and dance routines in a kitchen and cupboard gone awry, as well as in numerous spoofs and skits, is another artist on the rise. Ann Arvia, as Bird Woman, was eloquent and sophisticated in “Feed the Birds”, sung with Mary Poppins.

Almost every Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman (who wrote original lyrics and music for the Disney film) tune played in my mind for days. Even George Stiles’ and Anthony Drewe’s new songs, such as “Cherry Tree Lane” and “Anything Can Happen”, were rhythmically and tonally suited to the upbeat, buoyant antics. Especially noteworthy were Bob Crowley’s scenes and costumes, with Mr. Banks’ corner home office, as well as his workplace bank (“Precision and Order”, Stiles and Drewe), the bakery cupboard that falls apart, and with a bit of magic pops right back into place, and the public garden with statues that come to life. Richard Eyre’s direction and Matthew Bourne’s choreography were extraordinarily professional and tightly timed.

The spiritual essence of the P.L. Travers stories is preserved, e.g., in some silhouetted figures that add mystical imagery, but this show is clearly for families and groups of kids. My niece was bent forward throughout, and, at the end, holding her Mary Poppins parrot umbrella, she stood in the aisle, clapping and dancing and singing “Step in Time”, a Sherman-Sherman song that was expanded with the Stiles-Drewe collaboration. Jeff Binder, as George Banks, morphed from bluster to banter, and his endearing enthusiasm warmed the stage. Juliette Angelo and Matthew Schecter were filled with musicality and zest, while Brian Collier, as Valentine, a doll that looks like a duck, added adorable flourish. But, it was Laura Michelle Kelly, as Mary Poppins, that brought down the house. She was almost always onstage, and her tireless, three-hour performance enriched the show with luminous presence. Mary Poppins was so much fun, I could see it again, hopefully with an under ten year-old, who would dance in the aisle.

Camille at "Mary Poppins"
with Her Parrot Umbrella

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at