OGUNQUIT, MAINE -- She's practically perfect in every way -- Mary Poppins, that is.
And Ogunquit Playhouse audiences proclaim that pretty unanimously following performances of Mary Poppins at the venerable seacoast venue through Aug. 30.
The Broadway musical about the magical nanny who flies in on the east wind to save the troubled Banks family is a pleasing mix of songs and situations from the iconic 1964 Walt Disney movie, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, and the popular children's stories, first published by P.L. Travers in 1934.
Set in late 1900s London, the Banks children -- Jane and Michael -- are frightfully naughty, so rambunctious that they scare away every nanny their downtrodden mum Winifred hires. And their pompous pop, an uptight banker named George, just wants peace, quiet and order in his life -- the family be damned
Enter Mary Poppins, prim, pretty and bursting with magical powers, pulling lamps, plants and beds from her oversized carpetbag. Firm yet funny and fun, she brings joy to everything she undertakes from passing out spoonsful of sugar-flavored medicine to attracting penguins that dance and statues that talk on ordinary walks in the park. In the process, she helps the Bankses -- most notably daddy George -- realize the importance of love, laughter and family in life.
The lively Ogunquit production teems with enthusiastic production numbers, most notably "Jolly Holiday," " A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Step in Time," with a rooftop of agile chimney sweeps swooping across the stage.
More intimate numbers like "Feed the Birds," "Being Mrs. Banks," "Playing the Game" and "Brimstone and Treacle" offer a couple of added tunes, not in the film, that give a darker layer to the stage version than the sprightly movie we remember. The new tunes add more depth to a show that is perfect for families but appeals to adult audiences, too. In fact, a busload of Red Hat ladies, seated behind me during the matinee I attended, seemed more excited than the kids seated nearby.
Director Shaun Kerrison, along with choreographer Lisa Stevens, directs the show with finesse.
Performances are excellent across the board, most notably Gail Bennett, who channels Julie Andrews, our original Mary, in appearance and voice.
Tony Mansker is in fine fettle as Mary's enamored sidekick Bert, chimney sweep/artist/janitor/narrator and expert dancer. Wait 'til you see what Bert can do, thanks to impressive effects from Flying by Foy.
Christine Noll and Jonathan Rayson are fine as Mr. and Mrs. Banks, although we remember Glynis Johns in the movie having a real cause -- she was a suffragette. In this version, Mrs. Banks seems lost and alone and not nearly as much fun.
Sandy Rosenberg owns the strongest voice in the ensemble, doing double-duty as the poignant, pathetic Bird Woman and a towering, terrible Miss Andrew.
Joseph Hall and Siara Carillo Tracey, the Banks kids, are fine, although hard to understand due to overdone British accents.
The sound seemed overdone, too, in Act I, making certain lines garbled and hard to understand.
But those are minor quibbles in a practically perfect production.
And the sight of Mary soaring -- thanks again to Flying by Foy -- is simply breathtaking and well worth the price of admission. Bring the kids for a back-to-school treat. Or bring yourself for an afternoon or evening of high-flying theatrical entertainment.
Tickets $39-$79 at 207-646-5511 or ogunquitplayhouse.org.