Kid Reporter Cassandra Hsiao with (from left) Tyler Merna, Camille Mancuso, Talon Ackerman, Nicolas Dromard, Marissa Smoker
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is not a Harry Potter spell. In fact, it comes from the award-winning, “Practically Perfect” musical, Mary Poppins! For the first time, Disney’s Mary Poppins is touring all around the USA. I was thrilled when Mary Poppins flew into LA!
The lights dimmed. The curtains lifted. And the musical began, sweeping me away into the superlative world of Mary Poppins. The show did an unbelievable job capturing my mind and turning the magic of Mary Poppins from page to screen to stage!
How do Disney Theatrical Productions and Cameron Mackintosh set up a three-story house on stage every night? The Banks’ house opens up just like a pop-up dollhouse on Cherry Tree Lane. It is obvious that the creative team works together beautifully; the sound design and quick background changes are most impressive. Mary Poppins flying over the audiences’ heads with her hefty umbrella and handbag is impeccable. My favorite special effect takes place in the kitchen, where a little catastrophe happens – tables break, plates roll, and kitchen utensils clatter to the ground.
The costumes are bright, colorful, eye-catching, and simply gorgeous. With more than 200 costumes (not even counting the props), I guess the ensemble has to change from costume to costume at supersonic speed!
The bizarre dance numbers are complex, outstanding, and make the audience want to join in! The cast’s enthusiasm is extremely contagious, and the whole house buzzed with energy. One of the most amazing stunts of the musical is Nicolas Dromard (Bert), a multitalented actor, tap-dancing upside-down on the ceiling of the theater in “Step in Time!”
Another fantastic number is “Supercalifragilistic.” The entire audience claps along with the beat. It is a wondrous sight to see the entire cast spell out all 34 letters with their precise hand gestures! The lively orchestra and the choreography rejuvenate and communicate the infectious enthusiasm, with the spirit of the cast pulsing and thrumming as if they gulp down “A Spoonful of Sugar!”
There are also new musical numbers added that aren’t in the film – an extra little treat for the audience. “Practically Perfect” and “Anything Can Happen” are two of my favorite newbies.
The acting is superb, and I was delighted to see the kids in the role of Jane and Michael Banks, two spoiled, nasty, and mischievous kids. Camille Mancuso (Jane Banks) and Tyler Merna (Michael Banks) sing their hearts out with excellent voices.
And of course, let’s not forget the phenomenal nanny – Steffanie Leigh as Mary Poppins certainly bring the magic alive from the film! Turning work into play, chores into games, and everyday into a splendiferous escapade – what a high-flying, magical extravaganza!
This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience in a world parallel yet so mystical to our own.Mary Poppins is a sprightly musical that is not to be missed!
Check out my interview with Nicolas Dromard and the kid stars of Mary Poppins!
When you hear the name “Mary Poppins,” it’s impossible not to think “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Jolly Holliday,” or the classic tongue twister “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
The iconic magical nanny began in the pages of author P.L. Travers’ book. She became famous when she came to life on screen in the classic Disney movie starring Julie Andrews. And now she’s at home on stage in the musical Mary Poppins.
The show began on London’s West End in 2004 and moved to Broadway in 2006. Now, it’s touring around the United States. When Mary Poppins came to my hometown of Costa Mesa, California, I spoke with star Nicolas Dromard and the kids in the cast about performing in the show.
Dromard plays Bert, the role originated in the film by Dick Van Dyke. But in the musical, Dromard sets his Bert apart by bringing a little something of his own to the happy-go-lucky chimney sweep.
“Our director is really fantastic, he wants us to bring ourselves to the character, not the copy that Dick Van Dyke or whoever else did the role before,” Dromard told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps. “We’re all able to bring our own little quirks of our own personality. I really love bringing myself to the role.
“I’m still true to Bert, the jack of all trades, the narrator throughout the show,” Dromard adds. “But I’m also able to bring this little goofiness that I have in real life to my role. I’m a dork and a goofball.”
Dromard performed in Mary Poppins on Broadway, and going on tour is a different experience.
“In New York on Broadway, you do the same show in the same theater for six months at a time. You get to really know the theater, you know the people there,” said Dromard. “But on tour, the challenge is you go into a new theater every three or four weeks, and adapt to our surroundings, change our routines to accommodate the theater.”
When asked about the challenges of going on tour, the four youngest stars of the show — who are double cast in the roles of Jane and Michael Banks — talked about moving from city to city and traveling without family.
“During the school year, I have to travel with friends of the family because my dad’s a teacher and my mom’s a lawyer. It’s kind of hard, not being with my family all the time,” reflected 13-year-old Marissa Smoker (Jane Banks) who started acting since nine months old.
When not performing or rehearsing on the road, 12-year-old Camille Mancuso (Jane Banks) visits museums and monuments in every city.
“Every day it is something different. You get an education that you won’t get anywhere else,” said Mancuso. “At school you learn about these places, but on tour, you get to visit them. It’s just a really great experience.”
One timeless dance number is “Step in Time,” where Bert tap dances on the ceiling of the theater. Dromard said it’s his favorite part of the show.
“I’m not afraid of heights, and everything is very safe. You walk up the wall, you tap dance upside down, and the next thing you know, you’re coming back down. It’s just an everyday routine. Eight times a week, I can do it in my sleep,” he joked.
As for 10-year-old Tyler Merna (Michael Banks), his favorite number is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
“It’s just so high-energy, and even before I got cast it was my favorite song. It’s so much fun to get to do it,” explained Merna. “Mary Poppins and Bert take us on an adventure, and it’s great to do that, night after night.”
The cast all agreed that the best part of performing in Mary Poppins is being together.
“We’re a family on tour. That’s the wonderful thing,” said Dromard. “We become this close-knit family. Everybody supports each other and helps each other up because that’s what we are. Every month we go to a new city and we only have each other.”
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