Writer: P L Travers
Adaptor: Cameron Mackintosh
Directors: Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne
Reviewer: Nicole Evans
Mary Poppins has been a household name for generations that most children love and most parents secretly adore but are sick of hearing (sorry, Mum…). With that in mind, it’s only natural that the world, and more locally this evening, Birmingham, gets excited at the prospect of their childhood hero being brought to life, on-stage, right in front of their eyes.
Of course, this is theatre, and the talk of tonight’s audience is, in fact, how we all manage to miss the very moment the world’s most well-known nanny appears! So there begins the first testament to the near faultless evening of magic and mayhem that is about to ensue.
The set immediately impresses as we take our seats; with smoking chimneys and silhouette houses complete with yellow-lit windows adorning the backdrop before the curtain is even raised. This sets the bar high but we are not disappointed as the creativity just gets better. A sketched, pop-up-book style array of house, park, bank chimney and majestic world scenes follow that quite literally bring the story alive.
There’s almost too much talent on stage to do it all appropriate justice;however, there are some that stand out as memorable. Wendy Ferguson adeptly adopts the persona of Mrs Brill with ease and blows all the cobwebs from the rafters with her voice (both shouts and song), and the choice of Blair Anderson as her not-so-trusty sidekick is genius. Georgie Hill and Jabez Cheeseman, although a little too stroppy in nature at first, compliment each other charmingly once they settle into their performances.
With the feeling of there being something missing, without quite knowing what, looming over us during the interval, The Step In Time scene is exactly what’s needed in Act Two to blow every niggle out of the water. As we are treated to spectacularly timed tap routines, cleverly layered choreography creating the illusion of hundreds of sweeps despite there only being a large handful on stage and a gravity-defying wall and ceiling walk, the number succeeds in living up to the every expectation of sheer brilliance you’d expect from such a well-known creative team and is the highlight of the show.
It wouldn’t be right to leave the review standing without a mention of Mary Poppins herself. Zizi Strallen initially strikes us as being a little too youthful to do the part justice, chosen for her mannerisms and voice more than a perfect suitability to the character; however, we soon warm to her. By the finale, as she soars above the crowd and disappears above us into the roof of the auditorium, our hearts are well and truly warmed.
Mind-boggling illusions, characters and tunes we all adore, and some new additions that quickly feel like they were always part of the furniture make this show the 12-year success it deserves to be. Delightfully combining the magic of both book and film, this production will stir up the child in you and is set to be a lasting participant in musical theatre for generations to come. With all the favourites we know and love, a spoonful of creativity to help the new additions go down and a helping of pure and simple magic to feed our imaginations, this production is practically perfect.
Running until 23 April 2016 | Image:Johan Persson