Everybody’s favorite nanny flew into the Orpheum Theatre on Wednesday.
“Mary Poppins,” the Broadway musical based on P.L. Travers’ classic children’s book and the 1964 Disney film it inspired, is making its first Bay Area appearance, bringing the umbrella-toting British icon to life in a vibrant, kid-friendly production.
Presented by Best of Broadway, this well-oiled staging – produced by the Disney company and Cameron Mackintosh, and directed by Richard Eyre – unfolds in old-fashioned musical theater style, with a large cast and plenty of song-and-dance numbers to fill out the story of a struggling family buoyed by the arrival of a new nanny.
The heart of “Mary Poppins” is the unhappy Banks family – George, the overworked banker, who’s turned into a tyrant at home; Winifred, his thwarted wife, and their children Jane and Michael, who act like “beasts” because no one pays attention to them.
With the arrival of the new nanny, the transformation begins. Mary Poppins – crisp, proper and relentlessly cheerful – dispenses practical wisdom as easily as she floats over the London skyline.
Along with Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman’s familiar songs from the Disney film, the score includes a handful of new numbers by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Matthew Bourne’s original dance sequences are augmented by co-choreographer Stephen Mear.
At two hours and 45 minutes, Eyre’s staging may be a little long for kids. But the director keeps it moving, and scenic and costume designs by Bob Crowley are visually engaging, from the statues come to life in “Jolly Holiday” to the colorful pop-up set for Mrs. Corry’s sweet shop. Mary delivers her “Spoonful of Sugar” number in the Banks’ kinetic kitchen at 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
Bert, the show’s loveable chimney sweep, dances up a wall and across the proscenium arch in the Act 2 showstopper, “Step in Time.”
The cast is mostly strong. Madeline Trumble's Mary is a little steely, and her singing voice is marked by a wide vibrato. But she makes an attractive, articulate nanny. Chris Hoch’s stuffy George and Kerry Conte’s tender Winifred give nuanced performances.
Con O’Shea-Creal is an agile, charismatic Bert. On opening night, Alexa Shae Niziak and Eli Tokash charmed as the Banks children. And Karen Murphy earned big laughs as the bilious Miss Andrew, the musical’s nightmare nanny.
Presented by SHN
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
When: 2 and 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 8 p.m. Friday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $35 to $160
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com