When Bob Crowley's elaborate set is unlatched and drawn back to reveal the distraught home that soon will be whipped into ship-shape by Mary Poppins, it's hard not to wonder if the creative team is drawing a parallel between the magic-dusted Disney show and Ibsen's A Doll's House. After leaving her career in the theater, Mother is unfulfilled by having only domestic power; Father is consumed with his job at the bank; the entire household conspires to keep him "the sovereign." Unlike Ibsen's Nora, however, Mother has Mary Poppins (the unflappable Rachel Wallace) to incite change with her refreshing, decidedly alpha personality ("Oh, I like games!" she enthuses, before adding, "But I choose them."). But hey, it's also easy not to overanalyze and be just as swept away as your kids are by this sparkling, special effects–laden production. Mary not only works miracles with bratty children, cold marriages and stifled feminists, she also turns drab London parks into Day-Glo dance-offs and chimneysweeps into a badass tap-dancing army (show-stopping choreography by Matthew Bourne). If the goal was to reinforce Mary Poppins' mantra of "Anything can happen if you let it" with the magic of theater instead of Ibsen's grim realism, all the adults walking out with shining eyes and goofy grins confirm it worked. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; through Sept. 2. (213) 972-4400, centertheatregroup.org.
Saturdays, Sundays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: July 14. Continues through Sept. 2, 2012