The original Supernanny is back in town this week as Broadway Across America brings the musical “Mary Poppins” to the Mahalia Jackson Theatre for Performing Arts, just in time for the holidays. The eight-show run begins on Tuesday, Dec. 18.
Based on a 1964 film, which in turn was based upon a series of books for children, the musical tells the story of a magical nanny who “pops in” to a London household to care for the kids. It’s filled with brilliant color, childlike whimsy and the memorable songs that continue to excite our imaginations long after the curtains have closed.
Of course, the “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” question is: Will there be flying?
“Absolutely!” said Karen Murphy, who plays the Bird Lady. “Mary Poppins flies three times during this show.” She added: “And Bert does his own version of defying gravity. He doesn’t fly per se but he does something pretty wonderful.”
Although not a traditional Christmas tale, the show works well this time of year, Murphy said.
“It’s about a magical person who brings joy wherever she goes. And that’s what Christmas is supposed to do,” she said.
“The spirit of Christmas is not the gift-giving of material things but of treasuring those around you and giving to them.”
Murphy describes this unique touring production as a “pop-up book come to life.”
Unlike the fixed Broadway staging and scenery where props can rise from the floor, the touring set moves every week so it must be more compact and versatile.
The house serves as the main set, and it moves up and downstage, opens up and even rotates, always with Bert, as the narrator, indicating the changes.
“It can move faster than the Broadway set,” Murphy said. “And I think the storytelling benefits from that.”
It’s a story that truly has something for everyone, she said.
Audiences will hear song after song they know and love, such as “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim-Chim Cheree,” “Step in Time” and “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” while being entertained by a talented cast of performers ready to move from chimney sweeping and high-energy tap dancing to kite flying and classical ballet.
Murphy shared her favorite moment in the show: “I stand in the wings, stage left, near the top of act two. After ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite,’ there are four couples dressed like children, little girls with big hats perched on the crowns of their heads, who do about a 90-second ballet of playing with their kites and teasing each other.
“It’s exquisite,” she said. “I watch it every night.”
As with many touring theatrical groups, “Mary Poppins” picks up the majority of its orchestra in each city. Only the conductor and five musicians travel permanently with the company.
Murphy says the cast feels lucky to be able to work with these accomplished artists all over the country. She enjoys getting to meet them and says they’re always happy to be part of such a fun production.
“That’s one of the many reasons we’re all looking forward to coming to New Orleans,” she said. “We know the caliber of talent there. And it’s very exciting.”