REVIEW: 'Mary Poppins'

Photo by Charr Crail.

—by Jim Carnes

Director Glenn Casale is a genius. No wonder the folks at Disney trust him with so many of their musical stage productions. His international staging of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was named the Netherlands’ 2006 Musical of the Year and the French production recently was nominated for a Molière Award for Best Musical.

What Casale has done with Mary Poppins, which opened Tuesday at the California Musical Theatre’s Music Circus, is spectacular. He makes full and imaginative use of all the bells and whistles of lighting, sound and air space in the in-the-round theater.

Based on the books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, Mary Poppins tells the story of the quintessential nanny, who not only brings discipline, but fun and a bit of magic to two young children while reacquainting the entire family with what really matters in life. Your spirits will soar as high and as easily as Mary Poppins and her umbrella do: up, up and away.

The magical Kelly McCormick plays Mary Poppins with joy and a sure sense of herself and her character. She develops an instant rapport with her two young charges, Jane and Michael Banks (played by the impossibly cute and talented local actors Noa Solorio and Ben Ainley-Zoll, respectively). David Engel plays family patriarch George Banks and Shannon Warne plays his devoted—but frequently tested—wife Winifred. Robert Creighton plays the ever-optimistic chimneysweep Bert; Helen Geller is the park’s Bird Woman (“Feed the Birds” is her featured song); and Ruth Gottschall, reprising the role she originated on Broadway, plays Miss Andrew, the holy terror of a nanny who wrecked George Banks’ childhood and returns to exert her influence on a second generation.

Dennis Castellano conducts the orchestra of excellent local musicians as they play such film favorites as “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Step in Time,” “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and, of course, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” as well as additional music composed for the stage show. Choreographer Dan Mojica smoothly moves the cast, including a large and energetic ensemble, about the stage and in the aisles. The Village People-inspired, spell-it-out dance to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is impressive, as is Bert and the sweeps’ “Step in Time.”

This is the Music Circus premiere of Disney’s Mary Poppins, but judging from the sustained applause and the standing ovation it received opening night, fans will be asking for its return soon.

Mary Poppins, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday; $35-$80. Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H Street; (916) 557-1999, Through Sunday, July 13. 

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.