Culture Magazine

Review: Mary Poppins (Broadway in Chicago)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat


Rachel Wallace as ‘Mary Poppins.’  National Tour Company of MARY POPPINS.  ©Disney/CML.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
Mary Poppins

By Richard and Robert Sherman (music, lyrics),
George Stiles, Anthony Drewe (new songs), 
and Julian Fellowes (book)
Directed by Richard Eyre  
Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map)
thru Nov 6  |  tickets: $25-$65   |  more info

Check for half-price tickets  
   Read entire review



Saved by an umbrella


Rachel Wallace, Annie Baltic, Reese Sebastian Diaz, Nicolas Dromard


Broadway in Chicago presents


Mary Poppins

Review by Lawrence Bommer

Yep, it’s time for Chicago to swallow some helping spoonfuls of sugar: Disney’s aggressively buoyant movie musicalization soars into Chicago with Cameron Mackintosh’s all-singing, all-dancing tribute to P.J. Travers’ wonder-working Victorian nanny. Upright to uptight, the desiccated Banks household is the scene of a transformation very similar to what Peter Pan does for the Darling mansion just down the street or what a little girl from India does to a similarly frozen world when she discovers a “secret garden.”

Rachel Wallace as ‘Mary Poppins.’  National Tour Company of MARY POPPINS.  ©Disney/CML.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
Mary Poppins was also the second movie triumph for Julie Andrews where she gets to play a nanny—this time Austrian–who inexplicably abandons her chosen children in order to make them feel so much less miserable when, equally inexplicably, she returns. (Child abuse can be cute, I guess.) Add a touch of “Toy Story,” as Mary animates the dolls and playthings of Jane and Michael, and you’ve got a pretty potent childhood classic come to love and life.

Replacing a string of bad nannies who have thrown up their hands at the Banks’ bratty kids, Mary Poppins (Rachel Wallace, unflappably cheery and almost supernaturally smug) has no references but plenty of pluck. Embarking on a non-stop “jolly holiday,” this white witch single-mindedly opens up the stuffy Banks abode to the real world of Cockney chimney sweeps, magically restored living statues and happy kite-fliers in a London park, an elderly bird feeder with a heart of gold, a gypsy fortune teller who plays word games, and an umbrella that makes Dr. Who’s telephone booth look very stationary.

This relentlessly good influence inspires Mrs. Banks (Blythe Wilson as a pre-feminist prototype) to become more than a hostess in her home and crusty Mr. Banks (Laird Mackintosh), a stiff-necked practitioner of precision and order, to finally discover that banks should lend money to good people with excellent ideas, not simply use money to make money. (This, of course, is the most relevant parallel from 1890 to 2011.) A multi-tasker before her time, Mary also fends off the bad nanny (Q. Smith) who ruined Mr. Banks’ childhood and, with a lifetime supply of “brimstone and treacle,” threatens to do the same for another generation.

Nicolas Dromard as ‘Bert’ performs “Chim Chim Cher-ee” as part of the National Tour Company of MARY POPPINS.  ©Disney/CML.  Photo credit: Joan Marcus.
Nicolas Dromard as ‘Bert’ performs “Step In Time” with the National Tour Company of MARY POPPINS.  ©Disney/CML.  Photo credit: Joan Marcus.

Rachel Wallace as ‘Mary Poppins’ and Nicolas Dromard as ‘Bert” perform “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”  National Tour Company of MARY POPPINS.  ©Disney/CML.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
Rachel Wallace as Mary Poppins 3

The busy and often beautiful staging delivers pop-up and fold-out storybook scenery and flying drops that depict everything from the rooftops of London to the dormer bedroom where Mary sleeps with the once recalcitrant Baker kids. Matthew Bourne’s choreography regales us with the pulse-pounding, broom-banging exuberance of “Step in Time,” the break-out kitchen romp of “Spoonful of Sugar,” the full-out and contagiously silly “Supercalifagilisticexpialidocious,” the chirpy busker delights of “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” and the concluding liberation anthem “Anything Can Happen If You Let It.” (That’s a very curious moral that could apply equally to saving serious children from depression or unleashing a new bubonic plague around the world…)

Exuberant as these hijinks look and feel, this touring production is dogged with one serious problem—the sound system. On opening night it seemed perversely designed to make the already thick British accents even more incomprehensible, especially from the women. Can’t Mary teach her big brood the wonders of diction and her technical crew the marvels of sound tests?


Rating: ★★★



Mary Poppins continues through November 6th at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map), with performances Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 7:30pm, Thursdays-Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 1pm and 6:30pm.  Tickets are $25-$65, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online at More information at

Mary Poppins national tour - cast

All photos by Joan Marcus 




Rachel Wallace, Nicolas Dromard, Laird Mackintosh, Blythe Wilson, Rachel Izen, Dennis Moensch, Q. Smith, Janet MacEwen, Mike O’Carroll, Camden Angelis, Annie Baltic, Reese Sebastian Diaz, Dakota Ruiz, Josh Assor, Debra Cardona, Eric Coles, Mark Harapiak, Eric Hatch, Benjamin Howes, Michelle E. White, Jacob ben Widmar, Elizabeth Broadhurst, Arielle Campbell, Hannah Chin, Anthony Christian Daniel, Kiara Danielle, Elizabeth Earley, Tyler Foy, Molly Garner, Eric Giancola, Lisa Kassay, Matthew Warner Kiernan, Koh Mochizuki, Cory O’Brien, Sam Strasfeld, Nic Thompson, Madeline Trumble, Neka Zang

behind the scenes

Richard Eyre (director); Matthew Bourne (co-director, choreographer); Bob Crowley (scenic, costume design); Stephen Mear (co-choreographer); Howard Harrison (lighting); Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound); William David Brohn (orchestrations); Daniel Bowling (music director); Naomi Donne (makeup); Christine Rowland (asst. costumes); Rosalind Coombes, Matt Kinley (asst. scenic); Angela Cobbin (wigs); Geoffrey Garratt (asst. choreographer); David Benkin (tech director); Joan Marcus (photos)

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