Disney’s national touring production of the Mary Poppins musical is great, fun and colorful. Its cast is excellent, too, with one strange exception: Mary Poppins herself.
As Mary, the magical nanny, Madeline Trumble was the only one who seemed overly showy, clearly putting on a performance, whereas the rest of the actors were much more natural and performed as a cohesive unit. She would sing out to the audience, while everyone else sang to one another. Maybe that’s on purpose, but in the 1964 Disney movie on which this is based (my all-time favorite film, by the way), Mary was much more charismatic.
My 12-year-old daughter turned to me at intermission and said, “Mary Poppins isn’t supposed to be that grumpy.” Mary was stern in the movie, but you still loved her. In a stage show like this, you can’t see the actors’ facial expressions, so maybe Trumble had that wink-wink, but she seemed like she wasn’t having any fun.
The sets were all wonderful, and the show re-creates a lot of the most popular sequences from the movie. “Step in Time,” with all the dancing chimney sweeps, was especially amazing. The film’s carousel scene was changed to work for the stage, but it had the same feel to it. And “Feed the Birds” was pretty poignant; they did a good job with that.
The male lead, Bert, was my favorite character, and University of Oklahoma alum Con O’Shea-Creal was absolutely freaking amazing. He played it so close to Dick Van Dyke’s character, but without copying him. O’Shea-Creal just had the same charisma, that side smile.
Both the kids (Madison Ann Mullahey and Zachary Mackiewicz as Jane and Michael Banks) were terrific, too. I felt like I was watching a world of Mary Poppins … except for Mary Poppins. Am I judging her unfairly because I love Julie Andrews so much? I don’t know, but we heard others saying the same thing as we left. Trumble and the Mrs. Banks character (Elizabeth Broadhurst) had similar singing voices, but there was a warmth to Broadhurst that made me think she would have made a better Mary.
Still, the show as a whole was great. What I love most is that its theme of family togetherness still resonates; money is not what’s important. As I watched the opening-night performance at Civic Center Music Hall while the presidential election results poured in outside, it was tough not to think about how that holds true today. —Malena Lott