Drury Lane's 'Mary Poppins' soars
In Drury Lane Theatre's stellar revival of "Mary Poppins," the titular nanny sings and dances, conjures and encourages, disciplines and defends.
She even flies.
But those talents pale in comparison to her facility for repairing the fissures that threaten to break apart the Banks family. That's Mary Poppins' true talent: reuniting a fractured family, which Julian Fellowes' book details and which Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman's irresistibly jolly score sugarcoats. That's what gives "Mary Poppins" weight. And in the golden-voiced Emilie Lynn, director/choreographer Marcia Milgrom Dodge has found the ideal woman to carry it, with some help from the lithe, blithe charmer James T. Lane, whose the jack-of-all-trades Bert has mastered every one.
It's up to Lynn's take-charge nanny to restore the family: distracted patriarch George (Matt Crowle), frustrated mother Winifred (Alexis J. Roston) and their spoiled kids Jane (Grier Burke alternating with Nicole Scimeca) and Michael (Sebastian Merlo alternating with Hunter DiMailig). Both Crowle and Roston bring authenticity and dimension to George and Winifred. As George's former nanny, Holly Stauder is a villainess of operatic proportions, while Catherine Smitko's Bird Woman is the picture of quiet dignity.
Kevin Depinet's storybook inspired set -- with cherry trees stretching out over the audience and a stage framed by open books -- not only pays tribute to the written word, but it invites us to experience it. Kevin Loney's projections and animation pay homage to Disney's 1964 film, and Robin L. McGee's rainbow-colored costumes are a delight. Much of the credit rests with the accomplished Dodge, whose staging for Drury Lane's "Smokey Joe's Café" in 2016 was inspired.
Shrewd and imaginative, Dodge's direction reflects wit and an eye for detail. Note the flash of emerald that accompanies Mary Poppins' arrival, the statues of characters from children's literature, and the birdlike choreography Dodge and co-choreographer Josh Walden incorporate into "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," an exuberant number that comes moments after the poignant "Feed the Birds" duet. No coincidence there, I suspect. Dodge seems to be making the point that the birds the old woman fed blossomed. Why wouldn't they? Creatures respond to compassion and love.
Just ask Mary Poppins.
"Mary Poppins"★ ★ ★ ½
Location: Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. (630) 530-0111 or drurylanetheatre.com
Showtimes: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday; 1:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 19
Tickets: $60-$75, dining and show packages available
Running time: About two hours, 35 minutes including intermission
Parking: Free in lot adjacent to the theater
Rating: For all ages