KANSAS CITY, Mo —
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”
The elaborate stage adaptation of Walt Disney’s 1964 film musical “Mary Poppins” now playing at Music Hall, contains elements of fun. Even though it doesn’t measure up to the fun of the movie, it still gets the job done.
Produced by the Mouse House and Cameron Mackintosh (“Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables”) and mounted by famed British director Richard Eyre and choreographer Matthey Bourne, the stage version of “Mary Poppins” fails to capture the charm and poignancy of the classic film. Still, it’s an eye-popping, foot-tapping show that delivers the superior stagecraft we’ve come to expect from Disney.
In his script, writer Julian Fellowes (TV’s “Downton Abby”) attempts to shoehorn in some of the darker aspects of P.L. Travers’ original children’s books with the cheerier, lighter and brighter Disney version. The mix isn’t always successful.
But “Mary Poppins” still has those great songs by Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman and some strong dance numbers that should please most audience members. The middling new tunes and additional lyrics by Georges Stiles and Anthony Drewe don’t add much to the proceedings, however.
Madeline Trumble plays the ‘practically perfect’ no-nonsense nanny who uses her magical touch to help bring youngsters Jane and Michael Banks closer to their aloof parents.
While she’s adequately ‘spit-spot’ in the role, Trumble possesses an unusually wobbly tremolo that wavers well above and below the notes.
Con O’Shea-Creal brings a nice spark of charisma to the role of Bert, the street artist/busker/chimney sweep who helps Mary in her efforts to teach the kids and their parents some helpful life lessons. His gravity-defying dance to “Step in Time” is undoubtedly the highlight of the show.
While the film possessed a seamless flow, this version never quite hits its stride and has an odd, herky-jerky pace. It’s a step out of time.
The creative scenery and costumes by Bob Crowley are the real stars of this production, even though the touring company’s version is significantly pared down from what was seen on Broadway. Whenever the plot seems to drag, Crowley and his crew of stage alchemists manage to liven things up with some theatrical flash.
And therein lies the problem with the stage version of “Mary Poppins.” While it’s likable enough and has razzle-dazzle to spare, it lacks the very thing that made the movie so special: Magic.
“Mary Poppins” runs through January 14th at the Music Hall, 301 West 13th St., Kansas City, Mo. For ticket information, call 816-745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com or www.theatreleague.com.