As a child growing up in the St. Louis area, one of Patrick Fitzwater’s favorite movies was “Mary Poppins.” Now the artistic director of Slow Burn Theatre Company, Fitzwater is bringing Disney and Cameron Macintosh’s "Mary Poppins" to the stage.
“I always loved the movie,” says Fitzwater. “I remember watching Disney specials on Sunday night as a kid.”
Slow Burn Theatre Co.'s "Marry Poppins" is at the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts from Saturday, March 25 through Sunday, April 9.
“This version of Mary Poppins is a true Broadway spectacular,” he says, noting that it more closely follows the book by P.L. Travers and the classic 1964 Walt Disney film.
The show ran on Broadway in 2013 for more than 2,500 performances and received nominations for nine Olivier and seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Lest anyone forget, Mary Poppins tells the story of Bert, a chimney sweep and jack-of-all trades, in 1910 England and the troubled Banks family at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London, who hires the umbrella-flying Mary Poppins as their nanny.
And, “she will fly,” promises Fitzwater.
With her carpet bag of magic and common sense, Poppins teaches the family how to value each other again, singing, "Anything Can Happen if You Let It."
The first regional, professional premier outside of Broadway, Fitzwater notes that the show is a Florida-based effort, with many in the cast from South Florida and both leads, Melissa Whitworth as Mary Poppins and Adam Biner as Bert coming from Orlando.
In a departure from the film, many of the songs, including “Step in Time,” “Spoonful of Sugar,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” have been turned into “gi-normous” production numbers, exclaims Fitzwater.
With a cast of 32, huge sets and extravagant costumes, Fitzwater says this is the biggest show Slow Burn has produced. “Although it’s a big undertaking, it’s a milestone for us and we’re raising the bar for Slow Burn Theatre.”
While the standards will make an appearance, new songs and additional music and lyrics include “Practically Perfect” and “Anything Can Happen” by the Olivier award-winning British team of George Stiles and Anthony Drew.
With a book by Julian Fellowes, ("Downtown Abbey") co-creator Cameron Mackintosh, ("Les Misérables") has remixed the story, songs, dance numbers and stagecraft for an updated take on a classic film.
“This production of Mary Poppins is a true Broadway spectacular with incredible dancing and non-stop entertainment,” he says.
In addition to Whitworth and Biner, the Banks family is portrayed by Matthew W. Korinko and April Strelinger as Mr. and Mrs. Banks.
Like Fitzpatrick, Korinko, co-artistic director of Slow Burn Theatre, who grew up in Wisconsin, says he remembers Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke as Bert in the original Disney movie, but had never seen the stage show.
“The stage production, although different than the movie, is a lot of fun,” he says. “The choreography is wonderful, the script is well-written, the music so catchy and reminiscent, it all makes you feel good,” says Korinko.
His character, he says, has an evolution, which is something he relishes about playing Mr. Banks.
“The character of Mr. Banks . . . discovers what’s important in life. It’s not his job, his standing in society, his class or how he’s viewed in others’ eyes, but what is closest to his heart – his wife, children and family,” he says, adding that his mother from Wisconsin will fly into Fort Lauderdale to see him perform in the show.
“If you’re an adult now, it will remind you of your childhood and if you’re a child now, this will become that show for you in the future with your own kids,” he says. “It’s our great honor to be able to provide this for the next generation.”
The children’s roles of Jane and Michael are alternated by Victoria Vasquez, Stella Macey, Nate Colton and Spencer Hanan. Other featured roles are performed by Heather Jane Rolff, Michael Kruetz, Ellie Pattison and Stephen Fala.
In addition to directing, Fitzwater created the sound and wig design and the original London and Broadway choreography by Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mere is staged for this production by Ashley Rubin.
While he touts the show as a "truly a magical production,” says Fitzwater, he also says its the right time for Slown Burn Theatre to be presenting the feel-good music.
“The world could use a little magic right now.”
The creative team also features music director Michael Ursua, lighting designer Clifford Spulock, costume designer Rick Peña, props & projection designer and assistant stage manager André Russell, dance captain Ashley Rubin, production stage manager Steve Emerson and technical director Alex Fine. Set rental is from Front Row Theatrical with costumes by Ryan Moller provided by Tuacahn Costume Rentals.
Slow Burn Theatre's production of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's "Mary Poppins" is at the Amaturo Theater at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, from Saturday, March 25 through Sunday, April 9.
Shows are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; also 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. (11 a.m. show Wednesday, March 29 and 6:30 p.m. performance Sunday, April 2). The matinee performance on Sunday, April 2 at 1 p.m. will be open captioned. A sensory-inclusive performance intended for children and adults on the autism spectrum as well as individuals with other sensitivity issues or developmental disabilities will be held on Saturday, April 1 at 1:30 p.m. with tickets priced at $20 with $5 lap tickets for children 12 months of age and younger.
Regular ticket prices range from $49-$72.
For information and tickets, visit BrowardCenter.org or call 954-462-0222.