Her Majesty’s Theatre
Reviewed by Brendan Daynes
This energetic version of a musical classic is bound to please audiences of all ages
On Friday 3rd of February the wind changed in Melbourne. Not only did that bring an unseasonably cool evening but it also brought a revamped and energetic production of the classic story of Mary Poppins, the strange but extraordinary woman who becomes the nanny for Jane and Michael Banks.
The story of the Banks family and their nanny is one of the most well known Disney tales of recent times and Mary Poppins is the only film that earned a Best Picture nomination during Walt Disney’s lifetime. In 2004 Cameron Mackintosh took on the massive task of bringing the film to the stage and since then this production has entertained audiences all over the world.
In just under 3 hours, including interval, audiences become part of the Banks family. Led by workaholic George and ex-actress Winifred Banks, played by Tom Wren and Lucy Maunder, the family are struggling to hold onto a nanny for their boisterous and fun loving children Jane and Michael, played on opening night by Harriet Alder and Sebastian Sero. Enter Mary Poppins, played by the insanely talented Stefanie Jones, who seems to be able to not only tame but educate the children, all the while entertaining them and gaining their affections.
This particular stage adaptation depicts the themes and messages of the film, but steps things up a notch by taking inspiration from the original series of books in addition to the famous film. The amazing creative team including original music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, book by Julian Fellows and additional music, lyrics, dance, and vocal arrangements by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, along with Disney’s Theatrical Producer Thomas Schumacher and Executive Producer Michael Cassel AM, and director Richard Eyre have done a fantastic job of taking everything audiences love about the film and book and combined them into an amazing piece of theatre.
This is a full scale production with all the bells and whistles that is sure to astonish audiences. The incredible scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley add depth and atmosphere, and pops of colour that brighten the stage and give the production an marvellous feel. The extraordinary moments throughout the show, including Mary actually flying right over the audience, had both the young and young at heart in awe and amazement.
Taking advantage of all of these production elements are some show stopping numbers, which showcase the superb talent of our title character, but also the talent of the stellar supporting cast. Showcasing her versatility and undeniable vocal talent, Marina Prior, in a world first, plays both Bird Woman and Mrs Andrew. Providing comic relief are Hannah Waterman as Mrs Brill and Gareth Isaac as Robertson Ay, who’s ongoing interaction with the children is laugh out loud amusing. The other supporting cast including Robert Grubb in the dual role of Admiral Boom/Chairman of the Bank, Lisa Sontag as Miss Lark, Stephen Anderson as the Park Keeper/Northbrook and Harry Francis as Neleus all have shining moments. The ensemble cast showcase their expert skills throughout, bringing the audience to their feet in the first half with the fast paced ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocioius’. Keeping up with every step of the ensemble is Jack Chambers, who is exceptional as charismatic street sweep Bert. His crisp and precise movement, and his exceptionally fast feet in the tap number ‘Step In Time’ make you wonder if this role was written specifically for him.
Mary Poppins is currently playing at Her Majesty’s theatre in Melbourne and will move to Adelaide from July 2023. For more information or to purchase tickets visit https://marypoppinsmusical.com.au/tickets