Something magical and exciting is happening down at Broadway San Jose! This production of Mary Poppins marks the second consecutive regional premiere of a show in San Jose (Million Dollar Quartet was the first and that just opened a few weeks ago). Even though the Mary Poppins tour has been out for several years and its cast has changed cast several times, it still delivers an absolutely delightful and charming evening!
One of the most exciting things about this production is that Mary Poppins is the first production to hit the San Jose Performing Arts Center that actually fills the entire auditorium. Everything that I have seen in that particular space seems to get lost on stage or the material can’t get past the first 20 rows. It was also very nice to hear a full orchestra, directed by Daniel Bowling, in this space.
I’ll be honest and say I was a little tentative about going to see this because so many touring productions (mainly Shrek) have made huge budget cuts to sets and lighting which have had an adverse affect to the overall aesthetic of the show. With a show that’s completely based in magic, Bob Crowley, the set and costume designer, smartly redesigned this show so that the magic continues to permeate the entire production. I loved the cartoon-like design of the rotating house (a huge surprise!) and the lights (designed by Natasha Katz) were fantastic.
One of my favorite parts of the show was, of course, the energetic choreography and staging by Matthew Bourne. “Supercalifraglisticexpialidocious” was creatively fantastic! And how do you compare anything when Bert (the amiable Case Dillard) is tapping on the ceiling during “Step in Time”? That is seriously one of my favorite dance numbers in all of musical theatre history! I could watch it over and over.
The stand-out performance of the night was Bird Woman/Miss Andrews played by the incomparable Q. Smith. “Feed the Birds” is one of my favorite songs and she sang it beautifully. But, when she arrived at the top of the second act as Miss Andrews, I fell in love with her when she sang, “Brimstone And Treacle”. She wailed on so many of those notes! This is a part of the show that deviates from the original movie but you don’t mind because Smith creates a perfect Disney villian! (I slightly wish Miss Andrews had a bigger part in the movie now, but only if she was played by Smith.)
Another favorite moment was “Being Mrs. Banks” sung by the beautiful Winifred Banks (Elizabeth Broadhurst). Here’s a moment when she’s all alone on this huge stage and she completely owns it. She was fabulous the entire night, but she completely shined in this moment. It’s no wonder why she’s been on this tour and played Mrs. Banks over a 1000 times.
I had the opportunity to chat with the cast afterwards and several of them mentioned on how wonderful the San Jose audience was on opening night! It’s true, everyone seemed to love it and I have a feeling if you are a lover of this musical, you’ll love to see this story come to life on the stage!