Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ride through Wonderland

Chim chim cher-ee, non stop applause and periodic foot tapping...I cant believe that my only motivation to go to this extravaganza was the memory of my first Broadway show, Lion King. I was sitting tired after an 8 hour exam and a 24 hour empty stomach tossing my mind between sleeping and watching Mary Poppins, when I suddenly knew that if I did not go that day, I wasn't going to go at all.

Toe tapping music, catchy dances, beautiful sets, playful lights, lovely costumes , heart warming dialogue delivery, cute kids..I could go on... The show would have been very endearing for any single element, for each was done to impeccable perfection but the culmination of all these perfect renderings in every scene made it an absolutely stupendous and unforgettable experience.

Bert was easily my favourite character. His familiarity with both reality and the impossible...his closeness to Mary and his approach to life beneath all his act was something beautiful and thought provoking. Mary of course had the best dialogues to deliver..some hilarious, some serious and some reminiscent of grandma's tales. One scene where she sets the audience roaring was when she measures each kid with a tape and gives his/her character verdict. When one kid asks for Mary's measure, she breaks into this song of how "I am practically perfect, from head to toe". Mary tells the kids how anything can to happen to us if we let it happen. All we should do is not question the possibility. I thought it was a beautiful thing to say to kids and encourage them to expand their imaginations. I was reminded of how old the Mary Poppins's story was when she tells the kids to be careful about what they wish for. My grandmother used to tell me the same thing adding that there are spirits in the air making rounds and if you happen to make a wish when they are around, they get granted!
And yes, the audieince never failed to appreciate it each time she flew in and out of the stage.

The continuity and the complicacy of the sets made me wonder how this could be happening live without even a single curtain drop. Although it was obvious to the mind that Mary was held by a rope, the fairy tale effect was inevitable when she flew in and out of the stage with wind and lightning and kites. I was even toying with the idea of a hologram (after all the show was produced by Disney) until she actually flew(glided rather) into the audience waving at the end and alighted among the stands. Much more mouth opening was Bert's dance on the walls and the roof, never skipping a beat even when dancing upside down! I had to keep reminding myself that this was part of no elaborate video manipulation scheme. Some sets were so surreal that I forced myself to look away from the actors and focus on the background to discover why. On one particular background I noted that although the background itself was only painted, the clouds alone appeared to be gently moving! It made me want to stand and clap.

What good is discussing a musical without discussing the songs?! Like everyone else, my favourites were Jolly Holiday, Never Need a Reason and of course Supercalifragilisticexpiadilocious! I loved "Jolly Holiday" for the imaginative sets and the beautiful colors. I haven't tapped my feet as much as I did for "Never Need a Reason" in any recent memory. "Supercali..." was enjoyable purely for its outrageousness :). The play of lights in each of the songs is definitely worth mentioning. I can never forget how the angle of the lights kept changing in perfect synchrony with the music during "Never Need a Reason" such that not only were two dozen actors dancing but their shadows were dancing separately as well! Just two days before I watched the musical I was thinking to myself how sometimes no words in any language I know are adequate to express some emotions in full. I was delighted in the least to hear Mary give the same excuse to make up a word like supercalifragilisticexpiadilocious rather than browse through one lexicon after the other!

For all these reasons and even more intangible ones this show was a truly magical experience. I think that what made it truly magical was not just the world of fantasy it was set in but the underlying heart warming story. It reminded me of whats really important in life and the values we seem to have forgotten in this fast paced money oriented world we have built for ourselves.
To sum up...Mary Poppins was supercalifragilisticexpiadilocious!!!

Update - April 15, 2012:
Watched it again at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin with two friends...loved it ! Again! :)

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