Mary Poppins opens with a subdued Victorian house backdrop allowing colourful period costumes to pop off the stage, and from there, the two hour, 45 minute Broadway Across Canada production livens with detail, splashy dance numbers, and a variety of sets that make it a joy to watch.
The entire cast is strong and work hard to pull off such an entertaining production. Con O’Shea-Creal substituted for Case Dillard’s role as Bert, yet this understudy put on a fine performance (O’Shea-Creal, who normally plays Northbrook, was played by Stephen Roberts last night).
Rachel Wallace is fabulous as the lead Mary Poppins, bringing her strong, beautiful voice, wonderful humour, and antics to life on stage, dressed in gorgeous period attire, bright red lipstick, flashing a clean white smile.
George Banks (Michael Dean Morgan) and Winifred Banks (Elizabeth Broadhurst) are also worthy of mention here, functioning mostly as a couple who are trying to stay afloat through their own daily issues, while the kids get acquainted with their nanny, Mary Poppins.
Award-winning script writer/actor/director Julian Fellowes is well known for his cinematic achievement in 2001′s Gosford Park, a film that won him the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. His most recent project is writing and directing the feature film From Time to Time, starring Maggie Smith. The script he wrote for Mary Poppins brings a modern flair to the 1964 classic film.
I noticed many little girls out for the evening with their moms, all dolled up and excited for the packed opening night performance.
I couldn’t get hold of photos showing the enormous Banks home, but it’s an enormous, elaborate pop-out house, complete with atmospheric lighting. The home also rotates to reveal a well-stocked kitchen in back, during “A Spoonful of Sugar“.
Effective use of lighting (via the talented Natasha Katz) adds further dimension to the already colourful scenery, and I was amazed by the way that Bob Crowley (Scenic and Costume Design) and his team turned the interior of a bank into a monstrous institution by way of a forced perspective backdrop. Even the two guardsmen at the stage rear don grey tailored long coats, adding an almost unnatural height to their stature.
Added to the austere atmosphere are several cast members wearing various shades of grey attire, their postures reflective of the drone of working in a large institution, day in and day out.
One of my favourite Poppinisms: “Don’t interrupt when someone’s barking”. It’s this type of humour that endears Mary Poppins to the children so quickly. Mary can understand the language of both dogs and birds, and turns an otherwise hum-drum day at the park into a spectacle worthy of a 60′s acid-influenced trip.
Another strong performance is that of Q. Smith, who pulls off Bird Woman (inspiring a lovely performance of “Feed The Birds“) as well as Miss Andrew, the fearsome nanny who steps in to try to replace the irreplaceable Poppins.
The tap dancing scene in the second act is also superb. The chimney sweeps, along with Bert, Mary Poppins, and Jane and Michael Banks, the two children (also well performed by Marissa Ackerman and Zach Timson), is a treat to watch. There’s a lot of life occurring on top of those English rooftops!
I won’t spoil the show, but there are gorgeous moments of magic and splendor that will bring happiness to kids of all ages.
Mary Poppins plays through July 22 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver. Visit the website for ticket information and schedule.
Photo credit: Deen Van Meer.