It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Mary Poppins—the practically perfect, umbrella-flying nanny who blows into London on behalf of Jane and Michael Banks, two Edwardian children who have everything except their father’s attention. With dry wit, compassion and imagination (not to mention a spoonful of sugar), Mary shows the dysfunctional family how to look beyond appearances, enjoy work and, above all, embrace the day with an open heart and mind by realizing anything can happen if you let it.
Ever entertaining and timelessly relevant, the P. L. Travers character first appeared in print in 1934 and was popularized by Walt Disney in the 1964 film “Mary Poppins,” which earned Julie Andrews an Oscar. More recent cinematic variations include Emma Thompson as Travers in 2013’s “Saving Mr. Banks” and Emily Blunt in the title role of “Mary Poppins Returns” due out next year.
For now, the iconic heroine soars into Chicago via the Tony Award-winning musical “Mary Poppins” starring Nicole Arnold.
“Being able to portray such an empowering female role like Mary Poppins is an incredible gift. She is sure of herself, honest and never feels any urge to seek approval from others, and that is a feeling that everyone deserves,” says the actress. “Mary Poppins represents equality among dreamers.”
Written by Julian (“Downton Abbey”) Fellows, the play showcases the Academy Award-winning song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and other equally classic numbers such as “Jolly Holiday,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” by brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, with new songs by Anthony Drewe and George Stiles.
“Mary Poppins is a beloved character from literature, film and now the stage. She has a mysterious quality about her which people find compelling,” says director L. Walter Stearns who, like the production’s music director Eugene Dizon and choreographer Brenda Didier, is a Jeff Award winner. “She is a mystery that keeps on unfolding as we investigate her.”
The fantastical world of “Mary Poppins” is realized thanks to the efforts of Adam Veness (scenic design), Rachel Boylan (costume design), Nick Belley (lighting design), Mike Ross (sound design), and “Supernatural Chicago” creator Neil Tobin (magic design).
“It’s such a pleasure to get to share this magical story with audiences,” adds Armold, who shares the stage with Jeff Award winners Matthew Crowle and Cory Goodrich, as well as Kayla Boye, Pearle Bramlett, Timothy Eidman, Dan Gold, Sage Harper, Graham Hawley, Casey Lyons, Ashley Lanyon, Conor McGarry, Kevin McKillip, Leah Morrow, Peyton Owen, Erin Parker, Cameron Turner and Holly Stauder. “Hopefully they walk away from this play feeling inspired to follow their dreams and deserving of magic.”
“Mary Poppins” performs from April 20 through May 28 at The Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue. The family musical runs two hours, including intermission, and it’s recommended for both adults and children (aged six years and older). For tickets ($30-$65) and more information, visit www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.
(Photos by Brett Beiner)