Is Mary Poppins suitable for young children? That question caused a tempest in a teapot when the musical opened in London's West End in 2004 and the Daily Mail ran a story headlined, "Keep the kids away from Scary Poppins!''
"They called it a 'dark' Mary Poppins,'' said Bob Crowley, the Tony Award-winning costume and scenic designer of the show. "I think kids watch much, much worse on TV.''
Still, the producers in London did ban those under age 3 from attending the show and recommended that adults think twice before bringing a child under 7. There is a scene in Act 1 when toys come to life in a nursery that can be shocking to young children.
"The musical is slightly darker than the Disney film, but that's because the books are,'' said Crowley, referring to the P.L. Travers tales that are as popular with grownups as they are with children. "(Travers) had a darkness to her life, and it's definitely in there. It's that nightmarish element of childhood where fairy tales are told in order to teach children about the dangers of the world. I think we wanted to take a little bit away from Disney and give it back to P.L. Travers.''
Mary Poppins is a long haul for little ones, running two hours, 41 minutes, including intermission. The Straz Center recommends that children under 5 not attend.
John Fleming, Times performing arts critic