Mary Poppins scores with a stopover at the Queen E
by Jay Catterson
Okay, so the Disney juggernaut Mary Poppins rolled into Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre for a week-long stint. Verdict? Definitely full of sugar, spice and everything nice. The stage show, conceived by mega-musical producer Cameron Mackintosh in collaboration with Disney, is a glorious expansion of the beloved movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. What makes this show succeed is how the creative team has carefully expanded on the movie by introducing themes and events included in the original P.L. Travers books. So instead of presenting a facsimile of the film Mary Poppins (like Disney did with Broadway's Beauty and the Beast), they present a fresh take on the Mary Poppins tale that works on stage. That being said, not all works. The show is very long, the book feels a bit clunky at times, and the new songs written for the show aren't that memorable. But the show does charm and regale you with big budget sets, high-flying antics and bombast production numbers, with Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step In Time being the standout showstoppers.
Notable cast members include the vocally delightful Rachel Wallace as Poppins, and she pulls off the divalicious nanny with a slightly devilish panache. At our opening night performance, we had boyishly handsome Con O'Shea-Creal stand in for the role of Bert, and he filled those chimney sweep tap shoes with flair. And the vocal prowess of Q. Smith as the Bird Woman and the sinister nanny Miss Andrews blew the roof off of the lofty QE Theatre. Kudos to the casting directors for this show.
Although the constraints of the touring production omits some of the more spectacular moments of its larger Broadway counterpart (no, you won't see Poppins fly out over the audience in this show), all the magic and charm are still intact. So be prepared to fall under its spell; Disney knows how to dish out the magic in spades, just like Poppins dishes out her deliciously magical elixir to dazzle the members of the Banks household.