Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mary Poppins at the Walnut Street Theatre

With the kids having enjoyed the Broadway shows we have seen in the past, and with us looking to do something different for the holidays (rather than seeing the Nutcracker again), Amp got us tickets to see Mary Poppins at the Walnut Street Theatre on Tuesday December 23.

In short, the show was terrific. It was true to the screen version with all of its famous songs, but had enough additional music and variations to the plot that it made for a sense of seeing something familiar and yet new at the same time. The playbill lists 7 new songs added for the stage production, a few of which (along with Chim Chim Cher-ee) provide the recurring musical foundation of the show. The central theme of saving Mr. Banks is also more of a direct focus of the stage show, including an additional important character that helps explain some things.

The show was in two acts, each about an hour and a quarter, with a 20 minute intermission in between. All told, it started a little after 8 and ended a little before 11. The kids loved it (we all did), but it was a long evening for them, being about 11:45pm when we got home (with holiday house guests having arrived while we were out - so more excitement for the kids).

The cast was terrific, with David Elder as Bert, Jeffrey Coon as George Banks, Rebecca Robbins as Winifred Banks, and Lindsey Bliven as Mary Poppins. Nobody can match Julie Andrews, but Ms. Bliven came very close. She had an amazing, bright and clear soprano voice. Remarkable.

The sets were straight forward but very nicely done, the effects were very good, and the song and dance numbers were great. It was also fun to see Mary Poppins fly, although given the relatively small
stage of the WST, there wasn't a ton of room to work with for that effect. My understanding when this was on Broadway was that she actually flew over the audience a little bit, but that wasn't possible in this little old place.

The Walnut Street Theatre itself had a lot of charm, and is billed as the oldest theater in America. It was on the small side, with cramped lobbies, stairways and aisles, but had that wonderful charm of an old building.

A great evening and a highly recommended show. It will make you feel young again!

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