Broadway San Jose’s Mary Poppins is filled to the brim with sly, sweet, subtle magic as well as plenty of in your face, over the top, technical extravaganzas. Illusion and fun abound in this production and honestly, you’ll want to bring your eye drops, because you if you blink, you’ll miss something.
A simply marvelous, nay mind-boggling jigsaw of a set literally “sets the stage” for an enchanting, illusion-filled evening, where even a theatre savvy Princess like myself, joined in unison with about 500 others with an audible “how did they do that?!” from my seat. There was even a smattering of “no ways” as the fanciful story unfolded via stunning visual effects. From the big bright colors to the teeny tiny details, the creativity present in the production value was seriously impressive, utterly charming, and overall really quite wonderful.
If you’re a die-hard fan of the movie, note there are some edits made with regard to a character here and there and a subplot deleted or modified, but your core plot and favorite songs are there in spades with production numbers that each seem to outdo the last. A dark and yeah, I’ll go there, totally creepy toy sequence could have been totally left out if it were up to me, but Feed the Birds and Treacle and Brimstone (sung by the same actress) vocally wowed and easily made up for the bizarre toy debacle.
Realizing that live theatre on some level must overcome the challenge of contemporary abbreviated attention spans, the magic elements of this show strove to and in almost all cases succeed, in engaging an audience of all ages, but a 90 minute first act did find some of the kids (and admittedly the kid inside me) starting to flag toward the end.
During an only slightly less spectacle-filled second act, a few of our smaller audience members seemed to be fading as well due to some long song reprises and the more adult character arcs playing out. That being said, it’s entirely possible that the excitement from the anticipation and the first act just plain wore them out. I enjoyed the minute by minute countdown from wee personages seated in front of me, and observed plenty of gasping and pointing throughout. Mary IS Mary Poppins and Bert has some nice nods to Dick Van Dyke in his performance that are really the tops. The uproarious applause after one of the most spectacular numbers gave me chills. Nice to be surrounded by unbridled wonder and joy every now and then to be sure.
From the quaint neighborhood youth theatre summer shows to a taste of Broadway with touring shows performed on the “grown up stages” I remember each of my early theatrical experiences like they were yesterday. These moments with my family, seeing kids my age under the lights, reveling in the thrilling vibrations of live music, and the ingenuity of design, shaped me greatly. These opportunities to be part of a crowd and applaud the physical manifestations of pure imagination were nothing short of life changing. I remember feeling as if these moments were eerily prophetic, that in some cases they were chemically transforming me before my eyes. I was getting wiser, more complete, and my own creativity and confidence was being awakened while I watched stories unfold, jar often sore afterwards from long periods of gaping with awe. These were the first invitations to a path and had I not been taken to the theatre, had I not been allowed to take in a variety of arts, I am certain I would be worse for it.
All that to say, Mary Poppins is a well-suited opportunity to spend time, precious time, with the children in your life, fostering everything from patience and good manners to future arts patronage to nurturing the invaluable creative spirit in your children that will be used one day in ways you may not even realize. The essential task of being shown what IS possible is not only a theme of this play, but is taught by example via the amazing engineering feats and technologically advanced production elements. 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious musical with many performance highlights for the kid in all of us. Mary Poppins Plays through June 10th (a rare two-week engagement) at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts.
Dining Theatre Pairing: Since this is a show you’ll likely bring your family to, the dining pairing suggestion takes that very much into consideration. Every Friday night in my family was pizza night and to this day my parents still order a pizza each and every Friday. It’s a cherished tradition and even through tough times as kids, we could always get excited about and find solace in Friday night pizza. I mean, what’s not to like about pizza, people? There are tons of places for Pizza downtown, a few of my favorites below to accomodate all your taste bud types.
Pizz’a Chicago‘s specialty is deep dish style pizza. It’s fresh, filling, and it’s my personal favorite. It makes for amazing breakfast leftovers, in case you can’t finish it all in one sitting. It’s also close to the theatre (within 3 blocks walking distance) so as long as you allow a little extra time for the pizza to cook, it’s a great option!
Pizza Bocca Lupo serves thin and fresh Neapolitan style pizza and the name of the restaurant actually is the equivalent of “break a leg” making is a perfect pre-theatre dining option. It’s located at the newest hip development in Downtown, the San Pedro Square Market with plenty of indoor and out-door seating for you and the brood as well as additional dining options if you have a non-pizza lover.
Extreme Pizza owns the wacky pizza title and although a few extra blocks from the center for performing arts, if you have a more “bizarre palette” you will likely enjoy pizzas that have ingredients like BBQ sauce, spicy wing Sauce, Thai peanut sauce or corn and new potatoes. I wager Mary Poppins, being a tad “quirky” might choose something like the Pandora’s Box which comes with Spinach, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, garlic, fresh basil, oregano and mozzarella.