Review: ‘Mary Poppins’ at Paper Mill Playhouse is ‘Practically Perfect’

By Blaise Buckley on 16 June 2017
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Gliding through the air powered by an umbrella, everyone’s favorite nanny, Mary Poppins, is back in the New York area, that is until the wind changes course.

The Paper Mill Playhouse version is a vast improvement on the production that graced Broadway not too many moons ago. The cast is stronger, the book by Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame is tighter, and the score has the revisions that critics and audiences collectively asked for in the previous undertaking.

Last year’s Regional Theatre Tony Award recipient, the Paper Mill Playhouse, located not far from Manhattan in Millburn, New Jersey, has, with Poppins, opened its third Disney production in recent years, after the hugely successful “Newsies,” before that transferred to Broadway, and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

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The very talented Elena Shaddow truly makes Poppins as loveable as Julie Andrews did in her Oscar winning performance. The children, Jane and Michael Banks, played by Abbie Grace Levi and Maddox Padgett, gave two of the greatest performances by young actors I’ve seen on the stage.

Liz McCartney as the “holy terror” Miss Andrews, Mr. Banks’ nanny when he was young, appeared in only one scene and song yet made quite an impression. She received the honor of being only the second villain I’ve seen who received a number of “boos” from the audience, which was only giving praise to her stellar performance, during the curtain call. (The first was Kevin Cahoons’ performance as the child catcher in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”)

The choreography was gorgeously put together by Denis Jones and was the highlight of the production, especially his work on two numbers, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step in Time, that need to be seen to be believed. Jones received a Tony nomination this year for his work on “Holiday Inn,” which was equally as fabulous and became the star of that production last winter.

The set design by Libby Stadstad, lighting by Charlie Morrison, and costumes by Leon Dobkowski all came together – no surprise there – practically perfect under the direction of Mark S. Hoebee. It’s remarkable how much time and detail went in to this limited run that managed to top the Broadway production. It’s only playing through June 25 so act fast if you want to see Mary fly, or at least keep an eye out for Paper Mill’s exciting next season, which includes the world premiere of “The Honeymooners” musical and everyone’s favorite orphan, “Annie.”

THE DETAILS

Mary Poppins
Paper Mill Playhouse
22 Brookside Drive
Millburn, N.J. 07041
Runtime: 2 hours 45 minutes
www.papermill.org

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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