As a reviewer, I am always conscious of any influence I may have when it comes to my opinion possibly swaying theatregoers into seeing a particular show or not. I aways stress I am an arts advocate first, and a journalist second. Having said that, I must preface that this review of “Mary Poppins,” which I saw on Saturday at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, is my opinion, and mine alone. I have always loved “Mary Poppins,” having seen a touring Broadway production, Civic Theatre and Summer Stock Stage presentations, as well as the 2014 Beef & Boards show. Suffice to say, though it had its positive merits, compared to the others I’ve seen, this production lacked luster and was tepid at best.
It’s important to point out, however, that based on the positive response from the enthusiastic audience of all ages, most people probably did not share my opinion regarding the show’s limitations, which I thought were many, and which I will get into later.
But just in case there is anyone reading this who has not yet seen “Mary Poppins,” here is a primer. It’s a musical with music and lyrics by brothers Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, and additional music and lyrics by George Styles and Anthony Drewe, and a script by Julian Fellowes, who may be best known as the creator of “Downton Abbey.” The musical is based on the similarly titled Mary Poppins children’s books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, and is a hybrid of the two, including songs from the film. The musical opened on Broadway in 2006 and closed in 2013 after 2,619 performances.
As far as the show’s plot, Mary Poppins arrives at the Banks’ household just as the previous nanny is leaving. Her timely arrival is the first indication she might be a mystical creature. The Banks family includes Mr. and Mrs. Banks, children Michael and Jane, and servants. As the kids develop a close relationship with their new nanny, they increasingly see her as magical. Though sometimes impatient and even cruel, Mary Poppins brings wonder and joy to the lives of the Banks children, and through her influence, they learn there is much more to the world than they ever could have imagined.
Directed by Eddie Curry, who also stars at George Banks, and as previously alluded to, I felt the production lacked sparkle and the very magic the title character embodies. In terms of performances, the leads and some of the supporting characters were miscast. The British accents were inconsistent, and in some cases, nonexistent.
On the plus side, as usual, Ron Morgan’s vivacious choreography was ably executed by the chorus. Especially entertaining were several production numbers set to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Step in Time.” And under Terry Woods’s astute music direction, the show’s orchestra and vocals were solid. As far as specifics, regarding the production’s missing magic, my reference is to the show’s set design and special effects, which I thought were uninspired and costumes that were over the top. I must add, however, that at least one important special effect included in the show is highly effective and was a real crowd-pleaser.
I wish to reinforce the audience seemed to be highly entertained, so take or leave my critique of what I consider a somewhat unsuccessful effort, but know that no matter what, you’ll still enjoy the experience of a delicious meal with a show that only Beef & Boards offers. That, in itself, is worth the price of admission.
For tickets and information about “Mary Poppins,” visit beefandboards.com