31 January 2010

Mary Poppins: the musical

For my birthday, my mother-in-law took me to see Mary Poppins and to dinner in Los Angeles. I love musical theater, and I love it when the tour cast includes people from the original Broadway cast (both Mary Poppins and Bert were played by the same actors from Broadway - though the show originated in London).

We started the evening at Engine Co #28, a restaurant on Figueroa that was originally a firehouse. The restaurant features pretty traditional, upscale American food. It was good - I had a pork chop, Patti had pasta, and we split a Caesar salad.  The service was lackluster, and the next time I'm having a pre-show dinner in downtown Los Angeles, I will probably not return there - you know, it was good but not amazing.

We walked from the restaurant to the theater (we had plenty of time to kill and it was not particularly cold), but we were able to take a shuttle from the theater back to the restaurant for the valet parking, which was a very nice touch.

When we got to the Music Center, I was surprised at how many children were at the Saturday night show, which didn't end until 11:00, well past most children's bedtimes.  But, I remember my love of Mary Poppins as a child, so I can understand why they would want to see it. We had amazingly good seats, which is always a plus, and a lot of the little girls seemed really excited to bring their much-loved iconic film nanny to life.

Disney's Mary Poppins this is not. On the surface, she's very similar to the Julie Andrews character.  But she was much more vain and serious at times.  Much of the music was different from the movie - either adapted or original songs made up the majority of the performances.  And Mary Poppins leaves when the children continue to be bratty.  Which is obviously different.  She returns, of course, but overall I got the feeling that the play was based more on the books than on the movie.

Many of the characters from the play originated in the books, and they were some of the more interesting and energetic characters.  The play made the parents into more three-dimensional characters, which was also a very pleasant surprise. These differences could even leave a place for a remake of the movie, which beyond the main characters wouldn't really even resemble the original.

Highlights of the show were "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Step in Time," both of which were extremely well-choreographed and entertaining.  Overall, the musical seemed to be very old-school, which is appropriate for the material but explains the mixed reception that the play received on Broadway.

I was glad that I got to see Mary Poppins before the wind changed and she blew out of town (the show closes in LA this Sunday), and I was really impressed by the performances of the children in the cast, who are in almost every scene of the musical.  I would give Mary Poppins a "likes it" and 3.5-star rating. It's not the best musical I've seen lately, but it was fun and some of the numbers were awesome!

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