'Mary Poppins' spot on at Popejoy


If just a spoonful of sugar really helps the medicine go down, then last week's national tour of Disney's Broadway version of "Mary Poppins" at Popejoy Hall in Albuquerque was all that was needed for a delightful pick-me-up.

The theatrical version, like the popular 1964 movie with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, is definitely Disney, but Julian Fellowes, who wrote the musical, added numerous touches from the original series of books written by P.L. Travers in the 1930s and '40s.

So, when the kids who know only the Disney movie ask, where did those walking, talking park statues and Mrs. Corry and her conversation shop come from, you can tell them it came from the original series of books.

Despite the "new scenes," there are plenty of the familiar and beloved elements and songs intact that you'd expect.

As we meet the Banks in their home at 17 Cherry Tree Lane in London, where precision and order rule, the family is saying goodbye to Katie Nanna, one of six nannies to abruptly leave in the last four months.

The children, Jane and Michael, write their own want ad for a new governess, and almost as soon as the torn-up pieces of their efforts are swooshed out of the chimney, there she is: Mary Poppins, her sensible shoes and parrot-head umbrella intact — the practically perfect nanny.

Mary Poppins is not only a super nanny for the children but for the parents as well — teaching them to be bold, speak from their heart and to always remember the magic of childhood and not let the joy of seeing their own children grow up pass before their very eyes.

George and Winifred Banks, the befuddled parents who hire the flying nanny to care for their often-unruly children, end up not only with a competent caretaker who controls their children, but also one who helps them realize the love they share and see their family for the blessing it truly is.

With Mary Poppins comes fun and games, medicine that tastes like strawberry ice, messes that clean themselves up and that fabulous, bottomless carpet bag that holds all of her worldly possessions.

One of the most magical moments is when Mary, Bert and the kids enter the world of Bert's painting, when the stage transforms from a drab brown and gray London park to dazzling color so fast it almost makes your eyes ache.

Dancing and singing gray statues take the place of penguin waiters in this version, but they are amazing to watch.

The show's big production numbers are spectacular with rich lighting, clever costumes and amazingly precision-perfect choreography, particularly in upercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

Another highlight is the chimney sweeps' tap number, "Step in Time," — my all-time favorite — that features a gravity-defying tap solo by Bert.

Rachel Wallace is the total embodiment of Mary Poppins. She's sweet, yet firm. Fun, but businesslike when it's time to be. She's a bundle of energy.

But it's Bert, a jack-of-all-trades, played by charming Case Dillard, who was in the show's original Broadway company, who stole the show.

Young actors Cherish Myers and Zachary Mackiewicz were Jane and Michael for Wednesday's opening night performance. Myer's prissy Jane was the balance needed for Mackiewicz's goofball high-jinks as Michael.

These four are supported by a slew of adults from Michael Dean Morgan as the uptight, structured Mr. Banks to Q. Smith as the heart-breaking Bird Woman. Tregoney Shepherd as Mrs. Brill and Blake Segal as Robertson, the other Banks family servants, provide plenty of comic relief.

Engaging, delightful, captivating, moving; these are only a few of the words I can use to describe this amazing event. "Mary Poppins" is welcome back anytime — even in my house and all my kids are grown!

-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.