Writer: P L Travers
Book: Julian Fellows
Original Music &Lyrics: Richard M Sherman and Robert E Sherman
New Music and Lyrics: George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
Co-Creator: Cameron Mackintosh
Directors: Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne
Reviewer: Lu Greer
Mary Poppins is one of those names that can be uttered to anyone, and immediately bring a childlike smile to their face and warm fuzzy memories to mind. The film is an anomaly in the world of short stay films and too many sequels, in that it was a childhood favourite of multiple generations, and continues to be to the present.Everyone knows the story. Everyone knows the songs. Everyone knows Mary Poppins.
So bringing the film to the stage, both initially in 2004 and in any incarnation thereafter is a precarious task: get it right, and the audience will love it. Get it wrong, and they’ll let you know all about it.
As the audience take their seats the already high expectations jump up just a little further as Victorian London is revealed, complete with darkened houses and smoke curling from chimneys. Indeed, the sets help bring the story to life throughout the show as they bring a magical pop-up book feel to proceedings.
The cast, of course, has a difficult task, and that of Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins and Matt Lee as Bert is more daunting than most, as they must walk the line between staying true to Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke’s iconic portrayals, without falling into parody. While there are a few bumps in the first half, with the children (Georgie Hill and Jabez Cheeseman) straying a little too far into stroppy and shouting, and Mr Banks (Milo Twomey) seeming a little stilted at times, by the second half the entire ensemble is well and truly absorbed in their role. Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins is outstanding, from her sidelong glances at the audience to her point perfect tap routine. In her initial appearance it is perhaps a little jarring to see and hear someone so different to the Ms Poppins image we all have in our heads, she truly makes the character her own, and her performance of supercalifragilistic is one of the standout moments of the show.
It is certainly the big musical numbers which steal the show, as they should. The crew have gone all out with their tricks, ranging from flawless choreography, to the clever staging, to carnivals of colours that draw the audience in and keep them lost in the magic. In particular, A Step in Time, serves to cement this show as an excellent stage adaptation and as an amazing show in its own right.
Overall, the cast is solid, with some excellent standout performances. The real stars of this show, however, are on the technical side of things. The scenic design(Bob Crowley) fits the show perfectly, the choreography (Matthew Bourne)defies belief, and the wardrobe department (Bob Crowley)really outdo themselves. This is a summer blockbuster of a show that lives up to the hype and deserves to be filling seats throughout its run.
So, did Cameron Mackintosh get it right? The sea of smiling faces still whistling Chim chim cher-ee certainly thought so. You could say, it’s practically perfect in every way.
Runs until 30 July 2016 | Image: Johan Personn