Mary Poppins has been a favorite of mine for years—and I know I’m not alone in that. I mean, Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, cartoon penguins! Does it get any better than that?
I was absolutely blown away by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s 70th Season opener this last Friday night. My kids and I hurried down to our seats, made ourselves comfortable and began to imagine what the stage would hold for us as we waited for the show to start.
The lights dimmed and we were greeted with an introduction to the show about a family falling apart and how they begin to piece themselves back together, a sentiment which seems so relatable to families of all kinds.
There are many pervasive themes in the storyline that seem to have gotten lost within the film that the play illuminates beautifully.
Mary Poppins– the magical and mysterious nanny of the Banks family– discusses with Jane and Michael– the Banks family children–, after their father harshly sends them to bed, that all families have a tendency to be “upside down,” as Jane has put it, but that eventually they become upright. This resonates so deeply within our family as we, too, can feel upside down at times but eventually find ourselves upright.
Mrs. Banks makes no mention in the play of the women’s suffrage movement but does seem to battle internally with actually being Mrs. Banks, a name which signifies she belongs to another, that she is “someone else’s wife.”
Though she jokingly shares that Mr. Banks cannot share his feelings because “he is a man,” (which garnered a guffaw from the audience), Mrs. Banks seems to be working on the idea of feminine personhood, which felt great for my son and daughter to witness.
Mr. Banks battles with giving his children more of his attention than his job and with choosing “good people” over “good ideas” in his investments. Mr. and Mrs. Banks discuss closely, when fearing he may lose his job, that family is what is important, not homes or status, with which we’d previously seen them battle.
The casting of the play was brilliant. Seeing varying races represented in a story that is traditionally portrayed as white was a progressive move, though it is clear that no one was cast because of anything but sheer talent.
This single act—with no mention of race within the play or otherwise—has played and is playing a big part in normalizing race representation on a broad scale and modeling for children of all races and backgrounds what is possible for them.
As the play progresses, each musical act is bigger and better than the last, the characters—many of whom do not appear in the Disney film—come to life in exciting ways as the storyline delves deeply into subject matter with which most all of us can identify. From chimney sweeps to flying kites and characters, this play grabs and keeps the attention of play-goers and left me wishing it would never end.
Like Mary Poppins herself, this play is practically perfect in every way.
Photo Credit: Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, Liz Logan
This story was written for CharlotteFive’s latest channel for parents in the QC, called QC Playground. Sign up for the weekly QC Playground newsletter here.