Disney Theme Park

Mary Poppins on Broadway

A Practically Perfect Evening

Regina Hinrichs

While I'm eternally envious of my Orlando colleagues, there's one advantage I have over them. I can hop on the train and in a bit over an hour, I'm in New York's Grand Central Station.

Months ago we ordered tickets to see Mary Poppins at Disney's New Amsterdam Theater. Finally, October 28 arrived and the four of us were on our way.

Its been years since we've been to a show at the New Amsterdam. If you guess "Lion King" you're wrong. When Disney first restored this theater and was preparing for Lion King, they had special showings of "Hercules" that included a stage show. This is when we first saw this theater's restoration results.

Picture a time when theaters were part of the event. This was the New Amsterdam back in 1903. This ornate venue became the home of the equally elaborate Zeigfield Follies. Over the years, it fell into disrepair until Disney stepped in. Now it has all of the fantastic paintings, carvings, woodwork and tapestry that it was first known for. "Lion King" has recently been moved to the Minskoff theater to make way for this production of "Mary Poppins."

We step into the lobby and when we saw the ticket takers, my husband joked "they look like they're from the Tower of Terror." I've got to admit, the costumes are very similar. Fortunately, no elevators were needed to get to our seats.

Here's a Disney shocker. Before they let you into the main theater, you wait in a vestibule where there's a (get ready for the surprise) souvenir stand! Earlier in the week I read how the Mary Poppins Parrot handled umbrellas are just flying off the shelf. You know where this is going, I had to have one. Why? I make it my personal mission to make sure that Mickey keeps smiling.

In we go. We had fantastic Orchestra seats in the 4th row from the stage. My husband heads to the lounge and returns with the "Perfectly Pomegranate Perfectly Peach Prim and Proper Punch." Here's the deal at this theater. You can't bring drinks inside but if it happens to be in the Mary Poppins souvenir cup it's okay. And, with the show drink, if you pre-order a refill for pick up during Intermission, its half price. The first drink is $13 (in the cup of course) and the refill is $6.50 (in yet another cup) so for $19.50 you get two, count 'em, two souvenir cups plus the two drinks.

(There's also a non-alcoholic special "Sip and Sweep" drink.)

There's something so magical about Broadway. There we are in a legendary theater, the lights dim, the orchestra starts and I literally get chills from being in that moment.

Gavin Lee portrays Bert the Chimney Sweep. He's the award nominated actor from the London Mary Poppins production. In the play, he's not only the Sweep, he's also the show's narrator.

Mary Poppins is played by Ashley Brown. She was one of the 746 Belle's from Broadway's Beauty and the Beast. She had that "practically perfect" air about her and a smile that lit up the theater.

We expected to see the movie on stage, but the play's storyline is different. We weren't disappointed at all as that made it a new and unexpected experience. (The songs from the movie are all there, plus a few new ones.)

The staging is amazing. Most of the action centers around the Banks house on 17 Cherry Tree Lane. This three story edifice fills the stage. When it retracts, the attic (where the Banks children's bedroom is located) descends to stage level.

The actors portraying the Banks family and their staff are outstanding. There's always the fear that the "precocious" level will be a bit too high when it comes to child actors, but "Michael and Jane" were wonderful.

It's hard to say which one number was a show-stopper. "Jolly Holiday", Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Spoonful of Sugar" come to mind, but if I had to pick, "Step in Time" is the one that stood out from the rest. Tap-dancing chimney sweeps fill the stage in this rousing number. The standout is Bert who (thanks to Disney magic) walks up a wall, dances across the ceiling, and walks down the other side. WOW!!

On the other end of the spectrum, the beautiful "Feed the Birds" is the same quiet, heart tugging number as in the screen version of Mary Poppins. (Bring the Kleenex.)

There's kite flying and "nanny" flying as well. Suffice it to say, the finale will leave you wide eyed in amazement, but I don't want to spoil it for those of you who plan on going. (I probably said too much already.)

The play ended with a well deserved standing ovation. I couldn't believe it when I looked at my watch and almost 3 hours had gone by! (I also wondered how the heck we were going to catch the 11:10pm train.)

With the Parrot head umbrella, T-shirt and two souvenir cups in tow, we sprinted to Grand Central. So ended our "practically perfect" evening at Disney's "Mary Poppins, the new Musical."

This play is still in previews but will be officially opening in November. If you're thinking of going, get those tickets now as this is definitely going to be a smash hit.







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