It's a good thing producer Cameron Mackintosh wouldn't take no for an answer when he approached author P.L. Travers about creating a stage version of her stories about “Mary Poppins.” Travers hadn't been fond of the Disney film so her reluctance was understandable.
But Mackintosh prevailed and 10 days before Christmas in 2004, “Mary Poppins” finally found her way to the stage. A Broadway production followed in 2006 and is still playing. And like its predecessors, this touring production of “Mary Poppins” also boasts its share of Disney magic.
Yes, Mary Poppins does fly and she also glides up the banister in the Banks' home. And in a moment inspired by “Singin' in the Rain,” Bert the chimneysweep defies gravity by walking sidewise and upside down on the edges of the proscenium.
Yet, while this production has much to admire, it's not “Practically Perfect” as Mary often proclaims about herself. Act I is not so much unfocused as it is listless. This is a talky show and the narrative too often interrupts the pacing. Things improve in Act II and the finale is charming.
Madison Ann Mullahey and Zachary Mackiewicz offer capable performances as Jane and Michael Banks but their high-pitched voices and lightning fast deliveries render many of their line readings incomprehensible. Tregoney Shepherd is delightful in the minor role of Mrs. Brill.
As Winifred Banks, Kerry Conte musters ample mothering instincts but also demonstrates a lovely, wistful voice in the poignant “Being Mrs. Banks.” Michael Dean Morgan's journey as George Banks goes from being gruff and emotionally deficient to paternal and life-embracing.