Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 16, 2012

Mary Poppins

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through September 23, 2012
by Shera Cohen

Why would an adult enjoy a performance of “Mary Poppins”? Let me count the ways. 1. To re-capture pleasant childhood memories. 2. To experience the joy of accompanying a youngster to perhaps his/her first musical. 3. To awe over numerous, interchanging, spectacular 3D sets (the park scene wows in Technicolor). 4. To cheer the creative choreography and swift kickin’ chimney sweep rooftop dancers. 5. To sing along to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” front words and maybe even backwards.

What adults in the audience will not get is a profound script (that’s a given), fine acting (hardly necessary), and the Uncle Albert segment from the movie version (never liked it anyway).

“Mary,” the practically perfect nanny of the Banks’ household, brings order, life lessons, and new-found joy to all. Bert, a wannabe artist and chimney sweep, serves as narrator. Madeline Trumble’s (Mary) sweet soprano voice and Con O’Shea-Creal’s (Bert) cockney tenor are appropriate to their character. The kid actors are cute, the Bird Woman shabby, and the banker brittle. All of the elements shine to make “Mary” a treat.

This version of the classic tale adds many new songs, most of which are uninteresting. Yet the goal of those producing this hugely successful music was probably to appeal, even more than already accomplished, to a youthful audience. It works. Interspersed are reprises of the familiar “Chim Chim Cheree” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Indeed, “Mary” would not be a hit without everyone (yes, everyone) humming or singing at least one of the infectious tunes on the drive home.

Back to point #4. Mary, et al, rev up a slow paced “Super…” to a top-speed “YMCA”-like spelling (in body movement) – Act I’s show stopper. In Act II, Bert and his dusty friends perform a rollicking number seemingly on the rooftops of London for “Step in Time.” Again, a show stopper.

A third, yet unintended and literal show stopper on opening night was the recorded loud speak voice, smack in the middle of “Feed the Birds,” to “evacuate the building” to the sidewalks and parking lots. A scary situation particularly for most of the youngsters, they were calmed upon return to the theatre a half-hour later, by a soothing announcement that everything was okay and that the problem had been due to a special effect. Huge kudos goes to Bushnell staff, volunteer ushers, and audience for acting swiftly, orderly, and professionally.