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In The Pipeline: A bit of magic is just a small drive away

July 27, 2011|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy Chris…)

As I described a couple of weeks ago, this summer I'd like to focus occasionally on local events and places that might make good, simple, affordable escapes for you and your families.

You may have heard that the acclaimed Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production of "Mary Poppins" recently landed at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.

When Australian novelist P.L. Travers wrote her series of books about the charming and mystical nanny (made even more famous on film by Julie Andrews in 1964), I'm not sure she could have envisioned the production that takes place each evening (and several matinees).

My daughter and I had the pleasure of enjoying the opening-night performance, and while it hearkens back to the nearly inescapable charm of the film version most of us saw as kids (as my mom reminded me, actually the first movie I ever saw in a theater), this production takes the story into both new thematic and technical directions that are as emotionally satisfying as they are visually impressive.

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Without revealing too much, this is now a musical that, while still appealing obviously to children, has several adult themes layered in that give it a new weight, meaning and seriousness of purpose. As well, the actual production, in addition to a sparkling array of well-honed numbers, includes several sleight-of-hand performances that literally defy gravity — things you almost have to see to believe.

Last week, I took a backstage tour to get an up-close sense of just what it takes to both perform and deliver this show on a nightly basis.

Canadian-born Laird Mackintosh, who plays George Banks, father of Jane and Michael, has been with the show since the beginning — almost two and a half years and nearing 1,000 performances, including a three-month stint on Broadway.

"It's the most fun I've ever had, a dream come true," he said in his dressing room several hours before a recent evening show. "The beauty is, even after all these shows, we never go on autopilot. Each night we find some new bit of magic in the moments. And this show is at no loss for 'moments.' It's a show for families, for adults just as much as kids."

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