Theater Spotlight: Mary Poppins

Ashley Brown (left) as Mary Poppins, and the original Broadway company
Joan Marcus

This big Broadway beast effectively supercharges our old familiar story of a British nanny channeling the spirit of a Latin American coyote trickster (figuratively) in order to alleviate the thorough dysfunction of a uniquely unlikable nuclear family. Ashley Brown reprises the title role after turns in London and New York, as does Gavin Lee as the aw-shucks Bert. The tunes, with a few additions, are familiar from the iconic film (some having been given boatloads of performance-enhancing drugs), and there are plenty of visual signposts to take us back to the screen. But this is ultimately its own thing—entirely enjoyable, catchy, big-ticket bombast. "Jolly Holiday" features jaw-dropping visuals, and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" (my spell check just committed suicide) is a run of high-energy choreography in which a couple of dozen warm bodies spell out the title rapid-fire with their limbs. As is often the case when a little story is writ large, here the odd bits seem writ extra vivid. Why, for instance, are we supposed to be particularly pleased when the family's prickish father, George (Karl Kenzler), is rewarded with a big promotion and, one presumes, an ironclad excuse for backsliding into his contemptuous neglect of his kids (all right, perhaps that's taking things a bit too seriously, but I'm just saying)? And what exactly is in this bottle with which Mary keeps plying the children? Drambuie? Watermelon schnapps? Brown slays the musical numbers and projects the character's I-know-more-than-you-do exterior, though ultimately this nanny is also a smugly smiling narcissist (who knew?). Lee is all self-effacing charm as his salt-of-the-earth chimney sweep, lending a welcome touch of humor and an exceptionally light step in the dance numbers. By the time we're done here, furniture has exploded and come back together, Mary has flown out over the audience like the porcine float at a Pink Floyd show, and Bert has demonstrated his facility at dancing upside down from the top of the proscenium. Presumably, the only improvements would involve a swig from Mary's medicinal store. $25-$133.50. 7:30 p.m. Wed.-Thu., 8 p.m. Fri., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sat., 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sun. Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 800.982.2787. Through September 20

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