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Thursday, Jul 17, 2014 - Canvassed | Art & culture

"Mary Poppins" Version 2.0

In stage version in Vista, there's a little less sugar

By David Coddon
6 Steve Glaudini and Jessica Bernard in Mary Poppins
- Ken Jacques

It wasn't until I saw the film Saving Mr. Banks that I understood the depth of author P.L. Travers' disdain for the 1964 film adaptation of her famous character, Mary Poppins, to the silver screen. She especially loathed the idea of an animated sequence with dancing cartoon characters (which made it into the movie despite her objections).

I think Mrs. Travers would've been happier—albeit only marginally so, because she never foresaw Mary Poppins as a musical at all—with the stage show co-produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh that debuted 10 years ago in London. It retains the music and lyrics of the Shermans, Richard M. and Robert B. (plus some songs not in the film) and has a book by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) that is more mature and a smidge darker than the saccharine movie.

Well, a decade after its London opening, Mary Poppins the musical is on stage at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. It's less sugary than the Julie Andrews flick, though any show that puts the spotlight on the children is going to come off as cloying to some degree. But here, Mary Poppins is more strict (as Travers created her), and Mr. Banks' psyche more complicated (also as Travers wrote). Jessica Bernard is a splendid Mary Poppins with a crystalline voice. Moonlight Artistic Director Steve Glaudini harrumphs appropriately as Mr. Banks, and Leigh Wakeford is an agile dancer as chimney sweep Bert, though his Cockney accent ain't much better than Dick Van Dyke's in the movie. Maybe his walking upside down above the stage makes up for it. And yes, Mary Poppins "flies," umbrella and all.

Having seen Mary Poppins the movie a few years ago in grad school, and Saving Mr. Banks on Blu-Ray a few weeks ago and Mary Poppins the musical on Wednesday, I can now say I've had more than a spoonful of sugar. More like a tractor-full.

 
 
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