My daughters and I know the movie version of "Mary Poppins" forwards and backwards. The classic about a nanny who pops in to remind a family of what's really important is a long-time favorite in my house. As a child, I remember kind of wishing Mary Poppins would drop by for a visit at my house.
The stage version, presented through Sunday by the N.C. Theatre, tells a similar story to the movie. The kids are still unruly. The parents are hassled. Mary Poppins flies in. There's Bert, fawning over Poppins.
But this is no carbon copy. Winifred Banks, the mom, played beautifully by Lisa Brescia, isn't a suffragette, but an unhappy wife who wonders about her former acting career. We meet dad George Banks' former and delightfully evil nanny, Miss Andrew. And there are some new characters, including the magical Mrs. Corry, played by an energetic Yolanda Rabun, who runs a "Talking Shop."
The changes are just enough to keep the audience on its toes. You think you know the story, but you never quite know what's going to happen next, which is kind of the point of live theater, after all.
The cast - a mix of Broadway performers and local talent - brings the story to life with effortless singing and dancing. And there's a lot of magic on stage - from a statue that comes alive to the seemingly endless bag of things that Mary brings with her to the performances.
As Mary Poppins, Kara Lindsay, who was last Glinda in "Wicked" and Katherine in "Newsies" on Broadway, brings a firm, but loving hand to the Banks household. Nicolas Dromard, who also performed the role of Bert on Broadway, provides the charming narration that moves the story along (and is a fantastic dancer). And the kids, who are on stage as much as Mary herself, Micah Boan as Michael and Riley Rose Campbell as Jane shine. Boan offers just the right amount of age-appropriate rage for when things don't quite go his way. Campbell, the tween, offers just the right amount of disdain.
But the stars aren't the only one who push the story and the laughs along. Jane Blass brought plenty of evil swagger to Miss Andrew. And Kathy Fitzgerald as the overextended maid, Mrs. Brill, saved the scene when a family heirloom was supposed to break, but didn't, one of a few issues on stage on opening night. Without a second thought, Fitzgerald picked up the piece and slammed on the ground again - to the wild applause of the audience.
To sum it all up, the production was pretty "supercali ...." Oh, you know the word.
The show at the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh runs about two hours and 45 minutes, which includes a 15 minute intermission. I'd recommend it for all ages (though the 7:30 p.m. start time for most shows makes for a late night for little ones). The schedule also includes 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available, but they're going fast. A few tickets also are available for a special tea with Mary before the Saturday matinee.