Mary Poppins - Now In Its Fifth Fabulous Year on Broadway
December 13, 2011 - by Linda Tagliaferro
You won’t need a spoonful of sugar to sweeten your next theatre outing if it’s Broadway’s “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” Mary Poppins. The high-flying show is a must-see thanks to its enchanting storyline, dynamic dance numbers, vibrant costumes, eye-popping sets, and take-your-breath-away special effects. All this plus a score by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman (the duo responsible for the music introduced in the 1964 Disney movie starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke) and George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (who penned several new songs for the stage production).
Now celebrating in its fifth family-friendly year on the Great White Way -- the show opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre in November of 2006 -- Mary Poppins hasn’t lost an iota of the chemistry that makes it one of Disney’s most beloved stage musicals. If anything, the show is at the top of its game with a cast led by Steffanie Leigh as Mary and Gavin Lee, who originated his role as the magical nanny’s chimney sweep chum, Bert, in London back in 2004.
Yet despite Lee’s long involvement with the musical—having appeared in the original Broadway cast and in a stint with the North American touring company—he continues to breathe fresh life into his storybook alter ego. He doesn’t miss a beat during his signature tap extravaganza “Step in Time,” as he ambles onward and upward, amazing the audience as he pauses to perform his best tap-dancing moves while hanging upside-down for several minutes before rhythmically hoofing it back down to the ground.
Leigh certainly isn’t new to her role either—she portrayed the title character for eight months during a critically acclaimed North American tour of the show. And although this marks her Broadway debut, she slips seamlessly into the role, giving an enchanting performance while executing a dizzying array of stage feats, including a lively hieroglyphic “ride” up a banister at top speed, superseded only by a show-stopping flight taking her more than 50 feet above the orchestra seats.
Culled from both the books by P.T. Travers and the hit film, the show is set in Victorian London, mostly at the home of the troubled Banks family. (In modern-day lingo: Dad is a workaholic; Mom is hanging on by her fingernails; and siblings Jane and Michael are acting out big time.)
Luckily, Mary’s soaring, umbrella-powered entrance is destined to change everything for the better. Arriving with her luggage -- a carpetbag bearing an unending array of surprises -- she unleashes a cavalcade of magic that’ll send you out of the theatre wrapped in the cozy glow of all things unpredictable and wondrous, from a carnival-esque candy shop that appears out of the blue to a star-spangled nightscape that visually captures Ms. Poppin’s heartfelt philosophy: “If you reach for the heavens, you get the stars thrown in.”
Mary Poppins is playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre, 214 W. 42nd St. For tickets, call 866-870-2717 or click here.
Mary Poppins Trivia
Impress family, friends and casual acquaintances with these interesting factoids about the most magical musical on Broadway!
• In “Step in Time,” by the time Bert completes his heels over head journey taking him nearly 30 feet up the proscenium arch, he’s traveled nearly 110 feet.
• Matthew Bourne, who won a Tony in 1995 for his Swan Lake, won the Olivier Award for choreography for Mary Poppins.
• There are 250 costume “looks” from the early 20th-century period
• 52 wigs are worn in every show
• Each Starlighter costume has over 800 hand-sewn crystal stars
• The Park Statue costumes are actually padded bodysuits
• Mary’s wardrobe boasts four different coats in four different colors: black, blue, red and purple
• The Banks house weighs about 40,000 pounds
• The roof and nursery together weigh about 16,000 pounds
• The nursery is almost 50 feet high in its storage position and moves 11 times down to stage level during the course of the show
• There are over 250 different props in the show including 24 chimney sweep brooms used for “Step in Time” by Bert and the ensemble dancers playing sweeps
• The musical is the winner of 26 major theatre awards around the globe, including Tony, Olivier and Evening Standard awards.
• The original film score picked up the Best Song Oscar for “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and Grammys for Best Recording for Children and Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Show