“Mary Poppins,” the latest theatrical offering from Durham Performing Arts Center, provides a healthy dose of magic (no “spoonful of sugar” needed) for both the young and the young at heart. For those who aren’t familiar with the classic tale, it focuses on the Banks family and their new nanny, Mary Poppins ( Madeline Trumble), who floats down from the sky on a magical umbrella and promptly turns the Banks’ boring lives upside down. Full of larger-than-life musical numbers, a vivacious cast, stunning sets, and a whole lot of “wow,” DPAC’s version doesn’t disappoint long-time fans of the story or first-timers.
The magic starts the moment Mary Poppins enters the Banks’ home and doesn’t let up until the very end. Even the most adult of viewers are left wondering how Mary fits large objects—including a tall plant and hat stand—in her tiny bag, and that’s just one of the many tricks this production has up its sleeve. Chimney-sweep Bert (Con O’Shea-Creal) walks on the ceiling and produces real-life flowers from a chalk drawing; Mary herself flies high in the air, and sets seem to appear out of nowhere.
While intricate sets that float effortlessly into place are the norm at DPAC, this production’s sets are truly spectacular. Particularly notable is the Banks’ charming home, which looks like something out of a pop-up storybook, and the vibrantly colorful chalk-drawing world the Banks children are transported into.
Trumble, with her sweet voice and cheeky comedy, perfectly embodies the rule of sweet-but-stern Mary Poppins, and she’s backed by some superb supporting performers. O’Shea-Creal’s Bert charms with his easy smile, while Chris K. Hoch is perfect as serious father, George Banks. And, doing double duty as the Bird Woman and replacement-nanny, Miss Andrews, Karen Murphy touches and terrorizes hearts, respectively, in her all too brief time on stage.
While all of the musical numbers prove fun and engaging, certain songs are easy hits. Highlights include “Jolly Holiday,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” which had audience members clapping along at Tuesday night’s performance. Bouncy choreography and sharp sound serve as complements to a show that, like Poppins herself, is practically perfect in every way.