Production of ‘Mary Poppins’ is a pure joy at Broward Center for the Arts
By Skip Sheffield
“Mary Poppins” is a practically perfect family show.
Those of you familiar with the 1964 movie and the 2006 Broadway show know that professional nanny Mary Poppins proudly describes herself as “practically perfect” in the musical number of the same name.
The national touring company of “Mary Poppins” is in the house through June 27 at Broward Center for the Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
The character of Mary Poppins, created by writer-illustrator P.L. Travers in the 1930s, is a mysterious, mischievous, and marvelous young woman who comes into the life of a family and changes it for the better.
Mary is played by Welsh-born Caroline Sheen, a triple-threat performer who sings, dances and flies through the air with the greatest of ease.
It is the turn of the 20th century, and Mary literally blows into London to alight in the Banks’ family home just after the latest in a series of nannies has left her post.
George Banks (Laird Mackintosh) is a prosperous, no-nonsense banker who was raised by a stern, unforgiving nanny.
George is married to Winifred (Blythe Wilson), a woman who dearly loves him, and he is a demanding father to Jane (Kelsey Fowler, alternating with Bailey Grey) and Michael (Bryce Baldwin and Carter Thomas).
In part because of their distant father, the children have taken their frustrations out on one nanny after another. A half-dozen nannies have come and gone when Mary Poppins suddenly appears. Mary is everything the former nannies were not: warm, joyous, spontaneous, playful and forgiving. Her philosophy is defined by the song “A Spoonful of Sugar” (makes the medicine go down).
Mary’s best friend is the equally unusual Bert (Gavin Lee), a jack of all trades and master of most.
Like Caroline Sheen, Gavin Lee is a powerhouse talent whose tour de force is the law-dropping “Step in Time” number, performed with Mary Poppins and a chorus line of chimney sweeps. Not only is Lee a master tap-dancer, he is a aerial artist who handily taps his way up a proscenium arch and across the top upside down, always tapping and singing, with no visible signs of effort.
Similarly Caroline Sheen is a fearless flyer who delights the audience by taking off with her umbrella and sailing into the heavens to a perch in the upper balcony, only to emerge moments later for the curtain call.
For all its acrobatic feats, incredible set pieces and statues that come to life and dance, “Mary Poppins” is about heart; the heart of a family, and what makes it work. Everyone in the Banks household will learn a valuable lesson in life, and we will all be better for it.
In short, this show is a pure joy that a family can and will benefit from. Tickets start at $23.75. Call 954-462-0222.