Published by Oxford Karma – Read original article here.

Originally published on July 8, 2015

mary poppins

It’s a chim chim cher-easy to sing along to Lyric Theatre’s MARY POPPINS

Mary Poppins
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday
Civic Center Music Hall | Oklahoma City

When it came time to adapt Disney’s 1964 movie musical Mary Poppins for the stage, the creators stuck with the Mouse’s formula. Both are based on P.L. Travers’ stories, and both are long on spectacle and short on substance. Frankly, the 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks, about what Walt Disney went through to get Travers to cooperate on the motion picture, tells a more dramatic story than the cinematic or theatrical products.

Lyric Theatre is presenting the musical at Civic Center Music Hall’s Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theatre, and I’ll bet devotees of the movie will not be disappointed by the stage version. Disney’s Mary Poppins is all about animation and special effects. The advantage theater has over film is that the special effects are real. The onstage Mary also pulls an actual hat stand out of her carpetbag.

The show retains the original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. George Stiles and Anthony Drewe wrote new songs that sound a generation or two later than the Shermans’. Julian Fellowes’ book mostly follows the movie’s storyline, such as it is. Like many modern plays and musicals, by authors reared on movies and television, the show has a cinematic structure – that is, lots of scene changes. From the house at 17 Cherry Tree Lane to the park to fantasyland to a generic street to the roof of the house to the bank to the kitchen to the steps of St. Paul’s to more rooftops and back again and back again. The stagehands keep busy.

The scenic design (by J Branson) has the cartoon-like look of book illustrations, while the costumes (by George T. Mitchell) are staidly English until “Jolly Holiday,” when gigantic flowers pop into bloom and the costumes become fluorescent. And if marble statues that come to life aren’t your cup of Earl Grey, just wait for the tap-dancing chimneysweeps.

Directed by Joe Deer, the Lyric production features a fine cast. Lindsie VanWinkle plays Mary Poppins with the right mix of boldness and compassion. As Bert, the master of all trades, Jeremy Benton narrates the show. Dick Van Dyke played Bert in the movie, and the role is so associated with him that Bert seems almost a fleeting presence in the stage version. Jonathan Beck Reed and Melissa Griffith are Mr. and Mrs. Banks, the parents of Mary’s young charges, played by Michael James and Addie Wagner. Brenda Williams plays the Banks’ maid/cook with Logan Torbet as their doofus of a butler. This production is one where theatergoers might say they’d like to see this cast in a better show.

Matthew Sipress did the choreography, and he had a lot to do. The semaphore in “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” makes the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” look like “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
Two lessons seem to be the point of Mary Poppins: Late in the show, Banks – a, well, banker – learns there are more important things in life than making money, and Mary advises everyone that anything can happen if you let it. They’ll get no argument from me.

Oh, yes, a spoonful to sugar helps the medicine go down. They might get an argument from the American Dental Association about that.

 

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