November 6, 2011

Concert #608 - Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theater in New York (October 18, 2011)

Musicals and concerts are two different things, so I'm not sure whether this concert blog is the proper forum to write about "Mary Poppins", the Broadway musical. But if "Hair" has made it's way into my blog, then I can certainly make another exception for "Mary Poppins", a masterpiece that's been delighting me since my teen years.

I very seldom go to musicals. Massively successful runs such as Les Miserables, The Phantom Of The Opera, Cats, Chicago, Mamma Mia, A Chorus Line, Rent and countless others have left me totally indifferent. In plain English, I haven't caught either of them. But when you're in New York, you do as New-Yorkers do, so two weeks ago, my Better Half and I were walking aimlessly in New York's famed Theater District when we reached the bright lights of the New Amsterdam Theater, a stone-throw from where the 42nd Street meets Broadway. Ten minutes later we were the ecstatic owners of a pair of fourth-row seats, center, good for the following Tuesday's performance. The tickets weren't cheap, but a few days later we got our money's worth, and then some.

The event turned out to be one of the most enjoyable spectacles I have ever attended. Beyond the beautiful music that we all know, I was amazed by the quality of the performers, the stunning set changes, the dance numbers and everything else that happened right in front of us. Even with my minimal previous exposure to musicals, I could tell that this was a world-class performance in all respects. 

Everyone on stage was great, but no one was better than Bert, the chimney-sweep, played by British actor Gavin Lee (aren't all blokes named Gavin British?), and that's no small feat, considering the inevitable comparisons with Dick Van Dyke's mind-boggling performance in the movie.

Gavin Lee as Bert
Steffanie Leigh, who played the title role, was outstanding as well. Her singing, dancing and body language were just as I was expecting Mary Poppins to be. Her final departure, flying over the heads of the audience, was a sight to see. I read something interesting in an interview she gave some time ago: "The show backstage is just as choreographed as what the audience sees. If you stand in the wrong place for a costume change, you could get hit in the head with a piece of scenery as it goes flying across. It's like doing two shows at the same time."

Steffanie Leigh as Mary Poppins
I won't even try to pick a highlight, but "Feed The Birds" and the dancing frenzy that accompanied "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" are hard to get out of my mind and so is Bert's climbing on walls and tap-dancing head down on the ceiling. Here's Gavin Lee going for the roof tops:

The curtain
Mary Poppins flying away
The curtain call
The New Amsterdam Theater
More credits
The New Amsterdam Theater

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