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Mary Poppins Is Flying High At Philadelphia's Academy of Music


The wind blew this famous nanny into the city last week and she’s here to stay ‘until the wind changes.'

Of course it was more like 14 storage trucks toting several marry poppins academy of musictons of sets and costumes that took two and a half days to load in at the Academy of Music. But rather than looking at logistics, the audience is treated to a spectacular razzle dazzle event, Disney style.

This production is a collaboration between Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney Theatricals, and British producer Cameron Mackintosh, Mary Poppins.  

The story line remains the same as the prim and proper Banks household is rifling through nannies on Cherry Tree Lane faster than one can say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

When Mary Poppins and her parrot handled umbrella drop from the sky, the world becomes a ‘jolly holiday’ for the Banks children much to the chagrin of Mr. Banks who has forgotten how to love his family, feed the birds or fly a kite.

The musical is based on the stories of author P.L. Travers and the 1964 classic Walt Disney film and book by Julian Fellowes. However the focus on this production is on creating more of a flashy theatrical event than a charming story. Sets are impressive with the 7,000 pound Banks home opening up like a pop up revolving doll house. Rooftops are lowered from the sky and costumes are as elaborate as any Disney production to date.

The large cast starring Steffanie Leigh and Nicolas Dromard lead the company as Mary and Bert, the charming chimney sweep. Chemistry between the two is entertaining. Leigh captures the characteristics of Poppins quite well and Dromard makes it easy to forget Dick Van Dyke is the only actor who can play Bert convincingly.

Most of the beloved songs “ Chim Chim Cher-ree”, Spoonful of Sugar”, “Step in Time”, Feed the Birds’, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” are present with new material by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe which really does not enhance the already ‘practically perfect” score. Introducing the audience to Miss Andrew, Mr. Banks dreaded nanny played by Q. Smith may have been better left in the book as her over the top gospel screeching  is enough to cause nightmares. Speaking of sound, the over- miked system makes most of the cast loud especially the nasally voiced Banks children.

However, the highlights (and there are many) are the clever sets including statues coming to life, impressive backdrop projections of both the Bank of London and the cathedral where the bird woman, Janet MacEwen sings a most beautiful “Feed the Birds”.  Dance and vocal arranger George Stiles creates an entertaining combo with “Step in Time” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” drawing a roar from the crowd. Of course there is flying and Mary soars high in the sky as Bert climbs the walls and ceilings adding to the oohs and ahhs.  The giant umbrella in the star filled sky tops an evening of young at heart entertainment.

Mary Poppins plays at the Academy of Music through Sunday April 16. Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-731-3333 or online at kimmelcenter.org/broadway,

 Photos credits: Joan Marcus

Contact Pati Buehler at pbuehler@philly2philly.com

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