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Ahmanson 's Spoonful of 'Poppins'

Blog poppins460 The Ahmanson Theatre treated the local press and an invited audience to a delicious finger-sandwiches-and-scones luncheon and a delectable preview of the Disney/Cameron Mackintosh London and Broadway musical hit Mary Poppins, which flies into the Ahmanson next November, making its L.A. debut.

We had the joy of meeting the original Broadway stars Ashley Brown (Mary) and Gavin Lee (Bert the Chimney Sweep),  both pictured, who will reprise their roles in the national tour. The charismatic duo performed a medley of songs from the show and offered a tanalizing sampling of Matthew Bourne's buoyant choreography. We spoke to them briefly after the presentation, and found each of these triple-threat dynamos to be as enchanting offstage as they are onstage.

Lee confided that he has a bit of Cockney in his upbringing and expressed gratitude for this opportunity, which launched his career into the stratosphere when he was cast in the London premiere production. He's having so much fun with this that he never wants it to end. The charming Brown is equally elated about this milestone role, which has likewise put her on a fast career track. She remembers loving the film as a child, and her casting in this plum role is sort of a fairy-tale dream come true.

Adding to the supercalifragilistic-expialidocious afternoon were appearances by Oscar-winning songwriter Richard  M. Sherman, who wrote the score for the 1964 film along with his brother Robert B. Sherman. Much of the film score remains in the stage musical, augumented by delightful new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. These three songwriters performed generous samples from the show and offered fascinating anecdotes about the creation of the songs for the movie and stage play.

Producer Thomas Schumacher, of Disney Theatricals, was a most captivating host for the affair, boasting a wry sense of humor as he likewise spun tales of the show's miraculous journey from page (P.L. Traver's original books) to Disney film masterpiece to Great White Way triumph. The only downer to the gleeful afternoon was the realization that we have to wait a whole year before getting a chance to watch the magic unfold in its entirety.

--Les Spindle

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