On Stage: Mary Poppins

The stage production of “Mary Poppins” now playing at The Muny isn’t simply super, it’s supercalyfrag…supercollyfraji…oh, you know what I’m trying to say. I don’t want to cause spellcheck to explode.

This delightful show is based on the classic 1964 Disney film adaptation of a book by P.L. Travers. It features several memorable songs, colorful costumes, storybook set designs, show stopping dance numbers and a couple of leads who can’t keep their feet on the ground.

Mary_Poppins_HeaderThe story is pretty standard. Stern businessman George Banks (Stephen Buntrock) and mousey wife Winifred (Erin Dilly) are having trouble finding a nanny to corral their children —  Jane (Elizabeth Teeter) and Micheal (Aidan Gemme). In drops the mysterious Mary Poppins (Jenny Powers) to save the day and teach everyone some important life lessons, all with a smile and a song.

While it’s not a terribly compelling story (I’m still confused as to why Mary leaves at the end of Act 1 and returns at the end of Act 2), it’s the music that sells it. Classic songs like “A Spoon Full of Sugar” and “Anything Can Happen” are joined by a trio of show stoppers — “Jolly Holiday,” “Step in Time” and that super-long-titled song. I was curious how The Muny would handle the memorable tap-dancing-on-the-ceiling bit for “Step in Time” since there’s no ceiling on an outdoor theater. Their solution was clever if not as spectacular.

It’s another strong cast for a Muny production. Powers does a fine job channelling her inner Julie Andrews for the title role. Youngsters Teeter and Gemme return to the roles they played on Broadway and are practically perfect in the roles.

But the actor who steals the show — for the second time this season — is Rob McClure as Mary’s chimney-sweeping, tap-dancing buddy Bert. McClure was the best thing about “Shrek” earlier this summer and once again he commands the stage when he’s on it.

Props also go out to set designer Michael Schweikardt for cleverly dealing with a variety of challenging locations, Alex Sanchez for choreographing some compelling dance numbers and Nancy Missimi for the costumes. The show is directed by Gary Griffin with musical direction by Michael Horsley.

Mary Poppins runs through Aug. 2. http://www.muny.org/

Note: The Muny ends its 2013 season next week with another classic musical, “West Side Story.” I will be at LawyerCon next week and unable to attend. Given The Muny’s track record I’d say recommending you see it is a safe bet.  

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