The first of P.L. Travers’ books about Mary Poppins was published in 1934, and I read some of the books as a child, taking them out from a particular old library branch that my father used to like. The Walt Disney movie came out in 1965, so I know I didn’t see it then, but I probably saw it at a drive-in theatre in one of the early re-releases, and I think I’ve also seen it as an adult but not recently. I don’t know which I encountered first, but I don’t remember being bothered by any inconsistencies in the treatments.
I saw an early preview performance of the Citadel Theatre / Theatre Calgary production of the Broadway musical Mary Poppins last week. Blythe Wilson was in the title role with an appropriate combination of dignity and warmth, and Michael Shamata was the director. It was a fun large-cast show with a lot of music and with fun things to watch (dancing, kite-flying, various stage-effect magics, and enchanting sets capturing the house and neighbourhood in Edwardian London), so I think it would be a better family outing than Christmas Carol, which is a little scary. Young performers Zasha Rabie and Jack Forestier were poised and convincing in the roles of Mary Poppins’ charges Jane and Michael Banks. Kate Ryan and Vincent Gale were the Banks adults whom Mary Poppins also helps to find more balanced happier lives. Kendra Connor, a local actor who has been a favourite of mine in shows such as Fiorello!, Strike! The Musical, Nutcracker Unhinged, and The Minor Keys, was very funny in several small parts.
Because I’m preoccupied these days with learning the work of stage management, working as ASM on the upcoming Walterdale Theatre production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, (opens April 2nd, tickets here) I was completely in awe watching the smooth movement of complicated multi-level set pieces, some on a revolve. Mary Poppins’ dignified descents and ascensions by umbrella had her in a completely upright immobile posture, which also impressed me. In the early preview I saw, I think I saw one small delay probably due to a slow costume change and one wobble in the stage-magic, but they did not distract me from enjoying the show.
The underlying messages about valuing family life and personal happiness are just as timely today as when the books were written, and the story made me happy.
Mary Poppins continues to play at the Citadel until April 20th, but I hear that some performances are selling out.