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COVER STORY: Take a high-flying adventure with 'Mary Poppins'

Some musicals can be described as great, fantastic or even phenomenal, but only one has earned the right to be nothing short of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

A twist on the beloved Disney movie, Broadway’s touring production of “Mary Poppins” will stop at Richmond’s Landmark Theater for eight performances. It opened Tuesday and runs through this Sunday.

Few can hear the word “nanny” without conjuring up the image of the stern but kind, young Julie Andrews with her magic, flying umbrella and mysterious, bottomless bag. Disney’s 1964 film, based on P.L. Travers’ classic book series, has touched the lives of countless families throughout the years.

Its charming depiction of family life in early 20th-century London, along with the element of magic and the toe-tapping tunes, made it a staple in family entertainment, as well as winning it numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actress and multiple Oscars.

The musical continues to captivate audiences of all ages, and its Broadway tour has given fans more to love.

Featuring all the favorite movie songs—“A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “Jolly Holiday,”—paired with the energetic and artful choreography of the live show, this production offers a unique “Mary Poppins” experience. Plus, there are some selections exclusive to the Broadway production, such as “Practically Perfect” and “Anything Can Happen.”

“The movie is phenomenal, but the show takes the best of the book—written by P.L. Travers—and the best of the movie and melds them into one,” said Elizabeth Earley, dance captain for the production.

“I tell people, ‘Don’t come in expecting the movie,’” said Con O’Shea–Creal, who plays Bert, the lovable street artist/chimney sweep who woos Mary Poppins and takes the children, Jane and Michael, on various adventures.

According to O’Shea–Creal, the live show retains the magical element of the Disney film, with set pieces that transform before the audience’s eyes. It is true to the spirit of the movie, but with more nods to the book series and an updated storyline, tweaked by Julian Fellowes, the creator of the popular British drama “Downton Abbey.”

And if you think this show is just for kids, think again. Audiences young and old have raved about the production. Earley, who has toured with “Mary Poppins” for the past three years, said the show is geared toward all ages.

“Generally, people see ‘Mary Poppins’ comes into town and think, ‘Oh, it’s a kids show,’ when, in actuality, I think it’s more complex than that,” said O’Shea–Creal.

According to Earley, it’s the story of “a family that everyone in America can relate to.”

This musical focuses a little more on Mr. Banks, the children’s father, and his struggles with balancing family and work responsibilities.

“The problems that we have are very similar to the problems they had in 1910,” said O’Shea–Creal. “We just dress a little different.”

O’Shea–Creal encourages the adult members of the audience to come to the show with an open heart and to pay attention to the dialogue, since it is riddled with subtle jokes for the careful listener to catch.

In addition to the meaningful storyline and energetic song and dance numbers, “Mary Poppins” boasts an extraordinary set. As the troupe travels from place to place across the country, the set team breaks down and rebuilds the entire set to fit every stage for the performance.

“It’s pretty miraculous what they are able to make fit in smaller houses,” Earley said.

The innovation and flexibility of the tour’s cast and crew bring all the awe- inspiring elements of one of Broadway’s family favorites to theaters across America, without sacrificing the quality of the performance.

“I’ve never enjoyed dancing a show as much as I’ve enjoyed dancing this show,” Earley said.

Whether you’re looking to take the kids out, or just looking to rediscover the kid in yourself, this revival of the timeless classic will have you singing along and leave you smiling. You might even be inspired to go fly a kite!

Bridget Balch is a freelance writer and senior at University of Mary Washington.

WANT TO GO?

What: “Mary Poppins”

When: Through Sunday, Feb. 24

Where: Landmark Theater, 6 N. Laurel St., Richmond

Cost: $23–$93

Info: 800/514-3849;broadwayinrichmond.com, marypoppins.com

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