Mary Poppins - Still Flying High in Year Six on Broadway!May 24, 2012 - by Melanie Baker
It’s a world where chimney sweeps take in the best view of London, where tongue-twisting, nonsensical words dominate the dictionary, and surprises lurk around every corner. In a “practically perfect” nutshell, it’s the awe-inspiring world of none other than the very marvelous, ultra-magical Mary Poppins!
Now in its sixth supercalifragilisticexpialidocious year on the Great White Way, audiences still flock to experience the show in which literature’s most beloved nanny enters and exits by way of umbrella, turns toys into animated playmates, and cures any number of ills with a spoonful of sugar -- all the while bringing joy and love back to the troubled Banks family of No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
Set in London, the Banks family’s problems prior to Miss Poppins’ arrival mirror some very contemporary issues: father George is a workaholic who sinks into depression when he loses his job; mother Winifred, a former actress, is floundering in the role as wife and mother; and children Jane and Michael are selfish, spoiled, and craving both attention and affection from their absentee dad.
As the title character, Steffanie Leigh is superb, creating a Mary Poppins with just the right mix of spark, charm, and attitude. At the same time, it’s through the beautiful voice and magnetic presence of Megan Osterhaus (below), who plays Mrs. Banks, that audiences find themselves swept up into the very essence of Victorian family life.
After working as an understudy and traveling with the North American tour in the role of Mary, Osterhaus is now putting her own unique stamp on Winifred Banks.
“It was definitely a growing process,” says the Oklahoma native, who initially found it a bit disorienting seeing herself as a mother of two. “It was a challenge to fall into that different age range and find the grace and sophistication of Mrs. Banks.” Having stepped into the role three years ago, however, Osterhaus is now totally connected to her character, even as she walks the delicate line between obedient housewife and determined matriarch carrying a fire for her husband and children.
Regarding her onstage family, the actress has the challenge of working with three rotating casts of Janes and Michaels. “This really keeps up your ability to improvise and be flexible -- and it does help to keep the show fresh,” she says, adding, “Sometimes kids will stand on different parts of the stage in a scene or respond differently to a line.”
Produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, Mary Poppins is based on the children’s stories by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Oscar-winning film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. But it’s the NY stage production that has crowds giving it five stars for story, music, and performances. [“Amazing,” “My 5-year-old loved it,” “One of the best I have seen,” etc.]
And speaking of performances, in addition to Leigh and Osterhaus, the current cast boasts Gavin Lee as Bert -- the celebrated actor/singer/dancer who originated the role of the affable chimney sweep/jack of all trades both in London and New York. Lee will keep your eyes glued and jaws dropped as he effortlessly ascends the walls and (cue gasp!) ceiling during the show-stopping number “Step in Time.”
Mary Poppins is playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre, 214 W. 42nd St. For tickets, call 866-870-2717 or click here.
Mary Poppins - Go Figure!
Once a Broadway show has proven its longevity -- and in the case of Mary Poppins, this is a done deal -- creative number crunchers delight in turning their attention to trivia of the mathematical kind. Here are several ongoing calculations that have proven wonderfully mind-blowing to audiences since the musical made its Broadway debut in 2006.
40,000 - # of pounds that the Banks house weighs
800 - # of hand-sewn crystal stars on each Starlighter costume
100 - # of feet Mary flies “up and out” through the theatre.
30 - # of feet Bert “walks” up and around the stage & proscenium arch.
30 - # of musical numbers (including reprises).
24- # of chimney sweep brooms used for the tap number “Step in Time.”