Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
P.L. Travers, who created the character of Mary Poppins, famously disliked how Walt Disney treated her character in his film adaptation (a conflict fictionalized in the 2013 Disney film Saving Mr. Banks). Years later, Travers gave producer Cameron Mackintosh the stage rights on the condition that the project not include anyone who worked on the movie. Julian Fellowes' book draws on Travers' original stories, incorporating unfamiliar characters and adventures with the familiar score by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, along with some less memorable additions by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
Director Jason King Jones oversees a production that seems to move effortlessly, although the care and detail is evident. Daniel Ettinger's scenic design shifts from one view to the next as an exterior wall rises and falls, a staircase unit glides into and out of sight, and the rooftops of London in 1910 make periodic appearances. Colin K. Bills' lighting design echoes the moods of the characters: dyspeptic George Banks (Karl Kippola); his wife Winifred (Eileen Ward), a former actress frustrated by domesticity; their uncontrollable children Jane (Katharine Ford or Audrey Kilgore) and Michael (Henry Mason or Tyler Quentin Smallwood); and, of course, the unflappable Mary Poppins (Patricia Hurley), a woman who denies the existence of magic while taking the children on amazing adventures.
Hurley lives up to all expectations as she sings, dances with Bert the itinerant street artist and chimney sweep (endearing Rhett Guter), and guides Jane and Michael through a world where statues come to life, people can buy conversation in a candy store, and an army of chimney sweeps forms a precision dance team (the most exciting part of Tara Jeanne Vallee's choreography). And yes, she remains perfectly upright as she flies, with the assistance of D2 Flying Effects.
Kippola and Ward work to flesh out underwritten charactersGeorge is determined to be a perfect provider while repressing his emotions; Winifred can't figure out housekeepingwhile Valerie Leonard dominates her scenes as a rival governess, and Dorea Schmidt capably embodies both an outspoken servant and the kindly Bird Woman.
Olney Theatre Center