The riveting theatricality of Bob Crowleys production design, climaxing in chimney sweep Bert (Gavin Lee) soft-shoeing straight up, then upside down across the proscenium arch, and culminating in a showstopping umbrella flight over the audience by the famous titular nanny, produces an excitement that far outshines the limited value intrinsic in much of the musicals written material. Likewise the sublime showmanship of choreographer Matthew Bourne and stage director Richard Eyre hides the flaws in Julian Fellowes disjointed script and new music by George Stiles and Anthony Drew. Unlike most of Disneys Broadway smashes that producer Thomas Schumacher has magically transformed from animated film to stage, this is a hybrid between Disneys 1964 movie masterpiece, whose fun and fanciful score by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman still holds up, and the operetta gleaned from the original novel (with rights held by the Cameron Mackintosh team). The two styles battle one another for dominance, and neither wins. Most of the films story lines are banished in favor of closer adaptation of the P.L. Travers books with the familiar songs wedged into the scenes, while the new songs more closely fit the story, but lack spark. Nevertheless the production is an audience pleaser, with demonstrable talent on or off the stage. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through Feb. 7. (213) 628-2772. Presented by Center Theatre Group, Disney Theatricals and Cameron Mackintosh.
Sun., Nov. 15, 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Starts: Nov. 15. Continues through Feb. 7, 2009