Don’t camp up Mary Poppins. She’s a family business

The boutique “Mary Poppins” at the Mercury Theater is stacked with talent. Matthew Crowle, who plays the chimney sweep Bert, warbles a Broadway-level “chim chiminy,” and is fully in touch with the characters’ mysterious passivity and vulnerability apropos of the various coming and goings of Ms. Poppins. The uber-nanny — here to give a struggling London family a Lyft — is beautifully vocalized here by Nicole Arnold, a very fine actress who also understands that her ice-cool character’s formidable power lies entirely within her own carefully constructed enigma.

And there is no app for that. When you’re cool, you’re cool.

When it comes to kids (and men), you also gotta know when to fly out the window and let them figure it out on their own. And the timing of Mary Poppins is never anything other than exquisite.

I only wish what these two fine lead performers — each as good as you will see in the roles — are doing in the Southport Corridor was not so often undermined by a desire to camp up, well, so much of what surrounds them. To my mind, “Mary Poppins” needs to be serious business. With a little kite flying, bird feeding, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious fun on the side, sure, but we’re talking family reconstruction here, not to mention a story that homes in on the inevitably complicated relationship between kids, a nanny and stressed-out parents, of which (trust me) there are many examples within walking distance of this particular theater.

Before he got too busy with “Downton Abbey,” Julian Fellowes did the stage adaptation of “Mary Poppins” and this remains my favorite musical book of any Disney cross-platform transfer. In essence, Fellowes stripped “MP” of all residual sentimentality and really did create a very clever and fresh characterization that took one of children’s literature’s most familiar heroines and made her in many ways a metaphor for a struggling family learning how to love each other —…

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