Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Still Super...califragilisticexpialidocious -- Theater Review: Mary Poppins

Theatre Review

Mary Poppins
Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago
Thru November 6, 2011

While the early years of this millennium aren't likely to go down in history as a particularly stellar period for rock 'n roll or various other art forms--including fine art--I do think it's been a rather robust era for new Broadway musicals.

The Producers, Hairspray, Avenue Q, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, In the Heights, Spring Awakening and Billy Elliott are all shows I've found to be truly sensational.

Just a notch or two below but still wonderfully entertaining, especially with first-rate productions, have been Legally Blonde, Next to Normal, Jersey Boys, Caroline or Change, The Drowsy Chaperone, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Million Dollar Quartet, Mamma Mia, Urinetown, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Woman in White, Spamalot, The Color Purple, Grey Gardens, Curtains, Shrek, Young Frankenstein, The Addams Family, ...Tick, Tick, Boom, Aida, Movin' Out, Contact, Spider-Man Turn off the Dark, The Boy From Oz and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

I've also enjoyed shows that have yet to hit Broadway--and perhaps never will--like The Visit, Bat Boy, Dangerous Beauty, The Adding Machine, The Beautiful Game, A Man of No Importance, Daddy Long Legs, Little House on the Prairie and Stephen Sondheim's Bounce (later reworked as Road Show), and I've heard good things about shows I've yet to see, like Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Memphis and American Idiot.

Perhaps somewhat overlooked under the umbrella of "Great Musicals of the 2000s"--although it has been rather successful and generally well-reviewed in London, on Broadway and in touring incarnations--is Disney's stage rendition of Mary Poppins.

Like medicine with the help of a spoonful of sugar, the show--which features classic songs from the 1964 film alongside some nice ones newly created for the stage--goes down in the most delightful way.

I've now seen Mary Poppins live and in person four times and highly recommend the show for musical theater fans of all ages. Currently in Chicago on its second national tour, 'Mary' will be at the Cadillac Palace for the remainder of the week.

The current production remains superb, even if the scenery and stars are a bit lesser than the London and initial American tour versions (the latter featured the original Broadway Mary and Bert, Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee).

But Rachel Wallace and Nicholas Dromard are rather good in their own right, supported by a full Equity cast.

And while I may not put 'Mary Poppins' quite up there with the very best recent musicals due to its preponderance of pre-existing songs, in an era when "jukebox musicals" are ubiqitous, there have been few with a score as good as this one.

With magical tunes of old by Richard and Robert Sherman, including "Jolly Holiday," "Spoonful of Sugar," "Let's Go Fly a Kite," "Step in Time" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," I had a smile on my face much of the night. And "Anything Can Happen"--one of seven freshly written songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe --is one of my favorite showtunes of recent vintage.

While the show should hold great appeal for kids--it is certainly one of the best family musicals of the last decade--there is something about the story that should resonate no what your age, with the relevance of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement only adding greater resonance to the tale of the Banks family.

Though it is slightly scaled down form the first tour, which originated in Chicago, this might be your last chance to see a production this elaborate. Especially with discounts readily available from HotTix and Goldstar, or even just a cheap upper balcony seat from the box office, I suggest you "Step in Time" and fly on over to see Mary Poppins.

No comments: