By Gary Murray
Starring Madeline Trumble and Con O’Shea-creal
Book by Julian Fellowes
Original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Directed by Anthony Lyn
Mary Poppins is one of Disney’s best motion pictures. The story of a magical nanny won the Oscar, the Golden Globe and a Grammy for Julie Andrews. It would only make sense that a Broadway version of the show would be a part of Disney’s ascension to take over the Great White Way. A touring version of the show is a part of the Dallas Summer Musicals at Fair Park.
The story starts with Bert (Con O’Shea-creal) setting up our tale. He becomes the defacto narrator of the work. He is a charming rogue who gives the audience a much different reading from Dick Van Dyke in the film. He is one of the strongest members of the cast.
We then meet the Banks family with a father (who looks like Groucho Marx), a former actress mother and two adorable children, Jane and Michael. The children sing a song about wanting “The Perfect Nanny” and our Mary Poppins appears. The role is played by Madeline Trumble and she is “Practically Perfect.”
As the play goes along, the children are taught life lessons by Mary Poppins. She displays magical skills throughout the work and it makes the play feel more along the lines of a magic show than a play. Statues spring to life, Mary zips up the staircase, Bert dances around the proscenium arch and toys grow and dance across the stage. It is magical on many different levels.
The play is chocked full of massive hits. “Feed the Birds”, “Chim chim cher-ee”. “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Let’s go Fly a Kite” and of course “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. The later is the show-stopping number that is reprised at the ending. The actors are all in neon colors and are “Super” in every imaginable way. It has its charms and delighted every person in the audience.
The other highlight is “Anything Can Happen”. The entire company sings the big number and a giant umbrella comes down from the rafters. It opens up and rotates as the cast belts out the tune. This is a magical moment in a work with many magical moments.
It may have been an off night but Madeline Trumble was just not there either in voice or acting. The entire night, it felt as if she were just going through the motions. I have seen this show before and Madeline flew out over the audience at the end of the show last time. That did not happen this time. This was just not the magical experience that seeing it the first time was.
On the positive side Kerry Conte just soars as Winifred Banks, the mom. She has a strong voice that blends easily with her cast members and really needed a solo moment. She does a Broadway caliber job and outshines many of her co-stars.
Karen Murphy plays two different roles in the work. She is the Bird Woman and sings “Feeds the Birds in such a touching way that it brings a tear to the eye. She finds the emotional chord while caressing the musical ones. It is a highlight. She also plays Miss Andrew, the new nanny that was also George/Dad’s nanny so many years ago. It is a scene-stealing, backdrop-chewing moment that hits all the comedy notes in a perfect meter.
The costumes and stage effects are of Broadway quality with exciting costumes and bright lights. Much like Cats, half the fun of the show is watching the spectacle that is the flash on stage.
The first time I saw this musical, I thought it was the best production to hit the boards of the Dallas Summer Musicals. This time is was just okay. I love the show but this outing just was not up to the caliber expected.