APRIL 2024 | Volume 238


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RCMT Mary Poppins - Burt and Mary Poppins with cast Pavement Artist.

Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical
Music & lyrics by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellowes
Royal City Musical Theatre
Massey Theatre, New Westminster
April 25-May 12
From $27 + sc or 604-521-5050

I’m not a big fan of Mary Poppins, the movie or the stage musical in whatever incarnation it comes. (The last version I reviewed was called Disney and Cameron MacIntosh’s Mary Poppins.) But boy, Royal City Musical Theatre sure knows how to put on a show!

Led by marvelous Meghan Gardiner as the magical Mary and Darren Burkett as Mary’s helper and chief chimney sweeper Bert, a cast of dozens makes the often creaky material work very nicely, though talented Janet Gigliotti is mostly wasted on dreary, emotionally abused Mrs. Banks. Kirk Smith does his best as sniveling, overbearing Mr. Banks, and his Scrooge story has its requisite happy ending. The bratty then nice Banks kids are played in alternate shows by Charlie Emma Lynn and Addyson Handregan as Jane, Riley Calderwood and Roan Osenton-Boutin as Michael.

Katie-Rose Connors is in wonderful operatic voice as Miss Andrew, the villain of the piece, introduced late in the play to account for all the misery. And Jennifer Suratos shines as the sweet-shop lady, Mrs. Corry, in the lead-up to the show’s most exciting song and number, “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious,” where we see director/choreographer Valerie Easton working hermagic. “Step in Time,” the epic tap number involving all the chimney sweeps, is another tour de force, and the live balletic statues in the park are beautiful to watch.

Gardiner as Mary is indeed, as she sings so prettily, “Practically Perfect,” even impressively out-singing Connors’ Miss Andrew. Her straight-faced, business-like Mary goes about reforming the household with theatrical efficiency while managing to radiate warmth and never seeming treacly. She makes “A Spoonful of Sugar” go down easily. And her excellent timing generates a few very good laughs.

The show also looks great. Brian Ball’s sets are gorgeous, especially his painted flats, and Alex Campagnaro’s spectacular costumes lend an Alice in Wonderland flavour to the proceedings.

At first I wondered why the not very special effect of Mary rising above the stage and floating away on her umbrella kept getting applause. But then I realized two things. One, in our post-mega-musical age, we no longer see mega-effects like Phantom of the Opera’s chandelier crashing or Miss Saigon’s helicopter landing. Two, and more important, there is something both magical and iconic in that image of Mary stiffly, stoically, matter-of-factly floating above the chimney-tops. Like Peter Pan flying in through the Darling kids’ window, it signifies effortless freedom and transcendence. What we all wish we could have.







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