When the curtain descends after two hours and 45 minutes of Disney’s latest Broadway extravaganza, audience members are likely to be as exhausted as the singing, dancing, flying and ever-grinning cast members. And just when you think you’re free to make your exit, they break into another round of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the movie’s signature song and one of the high points of this smartly assembled, but sometimes staid, production.
Even if the charming 1964 movie starring Julie Andrews as the mystical nanny wasn’t part of your upbringing, you’re probably familiar with its infectiously tuneful songs — “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” among them — and the familiar premise, in which a pair of bratty children learn generosity and respect as they’re awakened to the beauty that’s all around them.
Those elements still enchant, but with one exception ("Practically Perfect"), the additional songs, by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and the book, by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park), fizzle like a bottle of flat champagne when compared with the bubbly effervescence of the elaborate production numbers from Swan Lake choreographer Matthew Bourne, or Bob Crowley’s sets and costumes — a festive mélange of colors. Even the browns dazzle.
As Mary Poppins, Ashley Brown has a lovely voice, but she’s emotionally austere, and at times her performance seems almost robotic. Brit Gavin Lee, on the other hand, delivers a star-making turn as Bert (the role made famous by Dick Van Dyke in the movie). Not only is his dancing ability a sight to behold — he turns upside-down to do a 360-degree vertical tap dance around the stage — he exudes such charisma and sincere warmth that you may wonder if the Banks children wouldn’t be better off in his care.
By Diane Snyder
Visit the Site
Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins), Gavin Lee (Bert), Daniel Jenkins (George Banks), Rebecca Luker (Winifred Banks), Cass Morgan (Bird Woman), Mark Price (Robertson Ay)
New Amsterdam Theatre
214 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036