Monday, February 27, 2012

Mary Poppins at the Devos Theatre in Grand Rapids - More Treacle than Brimstone

Perhaps it was the $50 nosebleed second balcony seats, or the cast figuring it's just those 'hicks from Grand Rapids,' but whatever it was being performed last weekend under the name of 'Mary Poppins' appeared so over-rehearsed and depersonalized as to be a sterile, mechanical experience with most of the performances being phoned in.

The 'updated' story has the somewhat scattered suffragette Mrs Banks becoming a frustrated former stage actress, the oblivious Mr Banks becoming a physically cruel father with a lewd eye towards the new nanny, and Mary Poppins becoming less of a magical governess and more of a 'good witch'.  In fact, the added musical bridges, insipid songs, and sung dialog had more to do with 'Wicked', 'Les Miz', and even 'Sweeney Todd' than it did with the Disney original. 

Obviously, the animated sequences would have been a challenge for a stage setting, but the substitution of naked statuary sans genitalia for the dancing penguins or singing lambs was just - well, creepy.  And the conversion of the "Supercalifragilisticespialidocious" song into a Richard Simmons-esque variation on a theme of "YMCA" was more sweaty than choreographed.  In fact, most of the choreography was pretty dreadful.  The "Step in Time" number was saved only by the character Bert's walk on the proscenium.

The sets were good, with lots of Germanic-cinema expressionism in the bank staging and some interesting forced perspective in the kitchen sequence.  In fact, given the Saturday afternoon experience with the musical, an hour or so of explanation of the operation of the set and how it worked would have been a far more entertaining outing.

In short, if you love the original movie, there is nothing added to this staged musical to make it worth your while.  Save your money and do as we did afterwards -- visit No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane on DVD and get all singy, sniffy, and sentimental.

I'm wondering now if the same 'creative group' will go after the filmed musical "My Fair Lady" and make an 'updated' stage version of it!?  Imagine - Freddy marries Eliza this time, Col Pickering hooks up with the head housekeeper, and Eliza can have a duet with her phonograph complaining about being tools of Henry Higgins....and they can sing all the dialog, since that's what MUST be done in any musical onstage these days!

No comments: