'Mary Poppins' brings its magic to Tulsa theater
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2012
11/15/12 at 3:22 AM
I have a feeling it won't be long before Disney's theme parks will include an attraction based on its musical version of "Mary Poppins."
The production, which began a sold-out run Tuesday at the Tulsa PAC as part of Celebrity Attractions' season, certainly has all the elements of a Disney thrill-ride.
It moves very quickly, with all the brisk efficiency of a household run by a somewhat magical nanny. It requires a great deal of energy to maintain that pace, which is supplied in spades by the apparently indefatigable cast.
It is packed with trick-of-the-eye surprises - those bits of stage magic that make one think "How did they do that?" (and a few in which the smoke and mirrors, the wires and winches are easily seen, but that still manage to have a touch of nod-and-a-wink charm).
It can get as brightly colored and sugary as an explosion at a Skittles factory, and even at its "darkest," it's still pretty chipper and chim-chim-cheerio.
And it leaves you in much the same place as when you started - in a seat, blinking and smiling, with a single tune and an impossible word firmly lodged in your mind.
"Mary Poppins" dazzles, to be sure. Although it does not mimic exactly the 1964 film that inspired this show, it transfers a good portion of it onto the stage, even finding a way to evoke the film's mix of live-action and animation in the "Jolly Holiday" sequence, and having a character take a tap dance on the ceiling.
It also includes most of the songs people remember from the movie, even if they are reworked to fit more comfortably into the way this story is told.
Which is that the Banks family at 17 Cherry Street Lane in London is in need of a nanny to manage the rambunctious children Jane and Michael. Into their lives comes Mary Poppins (Madeline Trumble), with a parrot-headed umbrella, a commodious carpetbag and an impishly imperious attitude.
She's assisted in her efforts to bring the Banks family together by a jack-of-all-trades named Bert (Con O'Shea-Creal), who tends to be everywhere, from the top of the roof as a chimney sweep to a painter whose canvases sometimes have a life of their own.
Setbacks are minor, resolutions are swift and everything is happily ever after. But it's also a little too episodic (which is closer to the spirit of P.L. Travers' books) for the story to serve as anything more than a framework on which to hang songs and dance routines.
Still, those dance routines - choreographed by Michael Bourne and Stephen Meer - can be something else, from the neo-classical ballet-meets-Broadway hoofing in "Jolly Holiday" to the playful vogueing that accompanies "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" to the tap extravaganza "Step in Time."
The original songs by Robert and Richard Sherman lose none of their charm, while the new ones by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe are serviceable; only their "Playing the Game," maybe the least cheery moment in the show, rises to a higher level.
Trumble does a winning job in the title role, making Mary Poppins a kind of genial force of nature, while showing glimpses of a more playful side. And she possesses a rich, wide-ranging soprano voice that is equally comfortable at scaling operatic heights.
O'Shea-Creal, a University of Oklahoma graduate, is an exuberant Bert in all the character's guises, maybe excelling in the "Step in Time" sequence that allows him to show off a muscular dance style.
Michael Dean Morgan and Elizabeth Broadhurst are the overly fussy Mr. and the at-her-wit's-end Mrs. Banks, while Julianna Rigoglioso and Eli Tokash hold their own among the adults as the younger Banks.
Tregoney Shepherd gets a great deal of comic mileage out of her disgruntled cook Mrs. Brill, while Karen Murphy is wonderfully effective as the Birdwoman, yet not quite as fearsome as she should be as the "holy terror" Miss Andrews.
"Mary Poppins" continues with performances through Sunday at the Tulsa PAC. However, it was announced at Tuesday's opening night performance that the run was sold out. For ticket information: 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
Madeline Trumble stars as Mary Poppins, and Con O'Shea-Creal plays Bert in "Mary Poppins." JEREMY DANIEL / Courtesy
Con O'Shea-Creal, a University of Oklahoma graduate, is exuberant as Bert in "Mary Poppins." KYLE FROMAN / Courtesy