Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

Mary Poppins

A musical based on the stories of P.L Travers and the Disney film

Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins

Original Music & Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman
Book by Julian Fellows
New songs, music & lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Co-Created by Cameron Mackintosh
Directed by Richard Eyre
Music Direction by Annbritt Duchateau
Co-Directed & Choreographed by Matthew Bourne
Co-Choreographed by Stephan Mear
Produced by Broadway In Chicago
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre

Spectacular family musical flies into Chicago—Mary Poppins is a Perfectly Magical Musical

Ashley Brown as Mary Poppins
Ashley Brown as Mary Poppins

After two successful years on Broadway, the first national tour of Mary Poppins flies into Chicago for a four month stay at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Co-produced by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, Mary Poppins is a fresh hybrid musical that co-creator/producer Mackintosh stated; “What I was searching for was a show that was both familiar and surprising, which would merge the best of the books and the film into something new.” Did he ever succeed!

Mary Poppins has all the elements of a GREAT musical: excellent book based on P.L Travers’ children’s Mary Poppins books. Terrific catchy tunes—“Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Feed the Birds,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and “Anything Can Happen” with music in the style of early 20th Century British music halls, melodic marches and anthems; fantastic staging with vivid lighting on terrific sets; spectacular show-stopping dances and thrilling flying scenes that include Gavin Lee (as Bert) tap dancing upside down. This national touring production of

Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins boasts two original Broadway stars—the golden voiced charismatic Ashley Brown as Mary Poppins and Gavin Lee as Bert. The supporting cast contained wonderful work from Karl Kenzler as George Banks and Megan Osterhaus as Winifred Banks. The Banks children are played by Abigail Droeger or Aida Neitenback (Jane) and Michael is played by Christopher Flaim or Justin Hall. These kids are real triple threats as they act, sing and dance throughout the show. Valerie Boyle and Andrew Keenan-Bolger are comic delights as the cook and butler.

Mary Poppins, the stage musical isn’t the film (which Pamelia Travers didn’t like) but it does use the outstanding songs by the Sherman brothers with additional songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe including the fine “Practically Perfect,” “Playing the Game” and “Anything Can Happen.” Seldom will you witness a more seamless and refreshing hybrid that keeps the best elements of the Travers book, the Disney film with thrilling dancers and funny scenes that become a fresh vibrant show. Filled with fine vocals, especially from Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee and Mary VanArsdel, this joyous, feel-good nostalgic musical is family friendly and a fabulous night of theatre. Of the several breathtaking dance showstoppers, “Step in Time” unfolds as a dance spectacle of the highest order. Who will forget Gavin Lee dancing up the walls and on the ceiling? All will thrill as Mary, umbrella in-hand, slowly alights over the audience into the rafters once her task with the Banks family is finished. Her flying was fearless and jaw-dropping.

Gavin Lee as Bert
Gavin Lee as Bert

The magic and mystic of Mary Poppins (is she myth or an angel from heaven?) is deftly played by Ashley Brown while Gavin Lee’s Bert guides us through the journey of the Banks family’s awakening with panache. We are totally engrossed and richly rewarded having spent a few hours in Poppins’ world where anything can happen if you take a spoonful of sugar. Mary Poppins is the best musical never to have won a Tony Award. I’ve seen many terrific musicals over the years and I can state that this production of Mary Poppins ranks among the finest I’ve seen! The song “Practically Perfect” aptly defines this magnificent work.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre 151 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL, Call 312-902-1400,, Tickets $25 – $90, Wednesdays at 2 & 7:30 pm; Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 & 8 pm; Sundays at 1 & 6:30 pm; limited Tuesday performances at 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 45 minutes with intermission.

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