FamilyMusicalReviewSouth West

Mary Poppins – Theatre Royal,Plymouth

Writer: P L Travers
Book: Julian Fellowes
Director: Richard Eyre
Original Music and Lyrics: Richard M Sherman, Robert B Sherman
New Songs and additional music:, George Stiles, Andrew Drewe
Reviewer: Karen Bussell

Just a spoonful each of Walt Disney, Matthew Bourne, Cameron Mackintosh and Bob Crowley and there’s a practically perfect family musical in Mary Poppins. Playing to packed houses, the unbeatable creative quartet has crafted a spectacular show to enchant youngsters and oldies alike.

Zizi Strallen is spit spot on as the flying nanny with saccharine smile, flashing eyes, magical bag and moves to match her tremendous presence. A commanding performance, enhanced by superb effects, and the ability to fly, tap dance across rooftops and cavort with statues, Strallen channels her Julie Andrews and then some.

Tidiness, the value of goodness and family ties are just a few of the experiences in store for the unsuspecting household.

Her unruly wards Jane and Michael Banks – ones to watch Violet Tucker and Finley Miller on press night – have thwarted many a nanny but have met their match as lessons are learned in the most delightful way. Mostly.

Helpmann Award-winner Matt Lee is cheeky chappie Bert (with an antipodean twang) whose ability to hold onto his cap and inexhaustible hoofing, particularly when tap dancing upside down, is top notch.

Julian Fellowes’ book rewrites Mrs Banks (Rebecca Lock) as a woebegone former actress rather than strident suffragette and introduces a pantomime baddie in the form of brimstone and treacle-wielding Miss Andrew (Penelope Woodman).

Slapstick duo Mrs Brill (Wendy Ferguson) and nice-but-dim manservant (Blair Anderson) provide most of the laughs with slick knockabout and sleight of hand while Neil Roberts is a weary George Banks (with a beautifully mellifluous tone).

There are journeys galore – physical, dreamlike and metaphorical as damaged childhoods are forgotten, a downtrodden wife vociferously stands by her man and Holy Terrors are defeated.

Bravely departing from the film, Mackintosh adds new songs and scenes with Practically Perfect and Mrs Corry’s shop of conversations the most successful but it is the tried and tested perennial favourites which exude most charm. Hordes of chimney sweeps Chim Chim Cher-eeing on the London night skyline, John Cleese-esque policemen, psychedelic flowers and mincing marbles Jolly Holiday-ing in the park and a poignant, stripped back Feed The Birds are quite Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Crowley’s costumes are extravagant and colourful but it is his sets (many of which were constructed and painted at Plymouth’s TR2) which particularly impress with a fabulous fast folding and pivoting 17 Cherry Tree Lane, complete with resurrecting shelves and tables, atmospheric landscapes ideal for kite flying, Technicolor trips, soaring vaulted bank and darkling, smoke-filled starry skies.

Add a talented Company, live orchestra, special effects and Matthew Bourne’s outstanding choreography,and what’s not to like? A great fun summer spectacular indeed.

Runs until 3 September 2016 | Photo:Johan Persson

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of Holly Spanner. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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