The world's best nanny has just flown into Durham, and has taken up residence at the Durham Performing Arts Center for one week only.
Mary Poppins is based on the 1964 Disney film of the same name. Chimney sweep Bert narrates the story of the Banks family, who is unable to hang on to a nanny for any time at all. Mr. Banks can't be bothered with the task of fatherhood to his two children, Jane and Michael, and it shows. The magical nanny Mary Poppins, who is, by her own admission, "Practically Perfect," appears as if blown there by the wind. Through her unconventional methods of love, imagination, and high expectations (and a little magic, of course), Mary Poppins teaches lifelong lessons to the Banks children as well as their parents. They learn that "anything can happen if you let it."
The production features the songs from the film that we all know and love, including "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Let's Go Fly a Kite," and adapted versions of other favorites, including "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "Chim Chim Cheree," and "Step in Time." The choreography is lively, and even includes a marvelous feat of upside-down tap dancing.
The cast of Mary Poppins is comprised of incredibly talented singers, helmed by Madeline Trumble as the title Nanny herself. Trumble excels, and her performance is as "practically perfect" as her character. Con O'Shea-Creal is equally charming and talented as the mysteriously magical chimney sweep, Bert. The children, Julianna Rigoglioso as Jane and Eli Tokash as Michael (who alternate with Madison Ann Mullahey and Zachary Mackiewicz, respectively), have an incredible amount of poise and talent - indeed, they are just as professional and talented as their grown-up counterparts. Jane and Michael are big roles for kids to take on, and these children are absolutely up to the task. Also worthy of note is Kerry Conte as Winifred Banks, Jane and Michael's mother - she shines in the song "Being Mrs. Banks."
The set is phenomenal - especially considering that it is somehow packed up on a truck and moved from place to place. It is almost like a children's book come to life as the house unfolds open and reveals magic within. The scenery is full of magical tidbits like beds that appear out of midair, kitchens that repair themselves, and bottomless bags. The scene changes are smooth and efficient, and the pace of the show is great as a result.
Though there is no content of a questionable moral nature, Mary Poppins is appropriate for patient second-graders and older, due to a long first act (almost 90 minutes), and a potentially scary scene in which toys come to life to teach the children a lesson.
Mary Poppins runs through February 17. For more information, visit www.dpacnc.com. For tickets, call the DPAC box office at 919.680.2787.