'ere we go again.
Mary Poppins has come to Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre for her second landing in a little over two years. This time around, Poppins will only be in town for a short run through November 6, 2011. Those hoping to see the magical story of super-nanny, Mary Poppins, who flies through the air with the greatest of ease to put things right with the Banks family and then flies off in spectacular fashion, will have to hurry--and that's not "just a piecrust promise," as Mary might say, "One that is easily made and easily broken"--it is a fact.
Once again fans of this Mary Poppins classic, as well as first-timers, are in for a treat. The current reincarnation of the musical spectacular has all the bells and whistles that audiences want. Check: live orchestra? yes; 30 full-out musical performances? yes: aerial feats? most certainly; great sets? spectacular; costumes? stunning.
Mary Poppins, with four productions currently running on three continents, is one of the biggest stage musical successes to emerge from London or New York in quite a while. The story, taken from the pages of the book by P.L. Travers and the Disney movie is the winner of 44 major theatre awards around the globe, including Tony®, Olivier, Evening Standard and Helpmann awards--Australia’s highest performing arts honor. The 1964 movie with Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) and Dick Van Dyke (Bert) received 13 Academy Award nominations walking away with the top spot for best song for "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and best actress for Andrews.
Although perhaps, not totally perfect in every way, the show is a top quality production with some outstanding numbers including the beautifully choreographed (Mathew Bourne and Stephen Mear) "Let's Go Fly a Kite"; "Step in Time" featuring an electrifying tap dance performance with the chimney sweeps and "Feed the Birds" with bird woman Janet MacEwen singing the haunting melody "tuppence, tuppence." (I must confess that I had a smile on my face and a tear in my eye from start to finish).
Under the direction of Richard Eyre, the show runs like a well-oiled machine with all the parts seamlessly flowing together. Rachel Wallace is the picture perfect Mary Poppins whose singing, dancing and aerial adventures are “practically perfect” in every way. Nicolas Dromard, fresh from a season of sweeping chimneys as Bert on the Broadway stage sweeps onto the Chicago stage without missing a beat. Two pairs of children alternate in the demanding roles of Jane and Michael Banks. The production that I attended featured Camden Angelis as Jane and Dakota Ruiz as Micheal. The duo played their roles with aplomb bordering on a bit too perfect and slightly plastic. The disciplinarian dad and stodgy London banker George Banks (Laird Mackintosh) was in the same top form in this touring production as he was when he played the role on Broadway. Mrs. Banks, mother, (Blythe Wilson) was delightful as she tried to find a way to keep everyone happy--and everything from falling apart.
Missing from this production was "the wooden leg, named Smith" bit that was a crowd-pleaser in the movie and other productions. However, with a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes--cuts had to be made somewhere--any longer may have been too much for the many children in the audience. The Saturday evening show that starts at 8:00p.m. lasts until almost 11:00p.m. Make sure, if you are taking little ones, that they are well-rested before the show. Then everyone can have a "Supercalifragilisticexpialidious" time--and leave the theatre, dancing on the sidewalks along Randolph St., as many happy children did on opening night.
Looking for an Encore?
Head next door (just West) of the Cadillac Palace Theatre to Encore, the lounge/bar in Hotel Allegro for their specially-themed Mary Poppins Martinis--sure to set you spinning. Try a Spoonful of Sugar--a three olive tini with grape vodka and cranberry juice with a watermelon rim; a Chim Chim Cher-ee with 3 olives, espresso vodka, kahlua, creme de cacao, and iced coffee; Let's Go Fly a Kite with Smirnoff coconut, pineapple usce and coconut puree; or try the Supercalifragilisticexpaialidocious with Grey Goose L'Orange Licor 43 and grapefruit juice. They also have a well-priced bar menu featuring 4 petite (actually bigger than what I call "petite") butter burgers and fries--that is enough for two to split for a late night snack at $10.95; plus wraps, calamari, nachos and more all priced similarly.
Tickets and Show Information.
Individual tickets start as low as $25. Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Kiosk at Water Tower Place (845 N. Michigan Ave.), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775‐2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations (including Hot Tix and select Carson Pirie Scott, Coconuts and fye stores), and online at Broadway in Chicago.
Groups of 15 or more may receive a discount on most shows by calling (312) 977‐1710. Gift certificates, which can be redeemed for any production or for season ticket packages, can be obtained at Broadway In Chicago box offices, online, or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 775‐2000. Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph St.) for a limited engagement of four weeks through November 6, 2011. Running time 2 hours and 45 minutes.