Uk Tour: booking until 14th January 2017
Mary Poppins is the most magical show I have ever seen. It’s not often that I actually cry during a show, but during the course of watching this production I found myself unable to see properly through my watery eyes. The show took me back to my childhood. I was reminded of why myself and many others fell in love with this ‘practically perfect’ nanny when I first watched the film. Everything that I believed in as a child was happening right in front of me, in real life. There were bursts of glitter; vibrant colours; toys that came to life, and objects that moved seemingly, without any human intervention. It was spell-binding.
The show is a closer representation of the books, which is favourable because in a way it honours P.L Travis more, and perhaps is closer to how she would have liked her stories to be brought to life. It is slightly darker than the portrayal in the film, but that makes sense in view of Travis’ comment that she never wrote for children. The relationship she had with her father was more poignant in the stage show, and the fact that Mrs Banks wanted independence. The story hit home harder than it did in the sugar coated film, and that’s not just because I’ve grown up.
That being said, whilst there is the addition of new scenes and songs, the storyline still remains mostly the same, and there are of course all of the much loved songs from the 1964 film. The two songwriters George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, who composed the new material for the show did so in such a way that it was almost impossible to differentiate between their creations and those of the Sherman brothers’; the original songwriting duo.
Zizi Strallen was a most convincing Mary Poppins; getting the vocals, characteristics and posture of the much loved nanny down to a tee, whilst Neil Roberts looked and sounded alarmingly like the George Banks from the original film. Matt Lee’s performance of Bert was outstanding; making his routines which involved walking up walls and a few seriously fast dance numbers look easy. The two children playing Jane and Michael Banks were impressive considering they were on stage for the whole show. The Banks children are written to be more naughty and rude for a lot longer in this production, which at first I wasn’t too sure of, but it didn’t take long before I fully accepted this and better understood why these children behaved the way they did. Everything made a lot more sense.
I would imagine that it’s often quite a gamble when turning a story which is so well known and loved such as Mary Poppins into a stage musical. If the script remains word for word then you run the risk of there being nothing new to draw in an audience. However, if the story changes too much then there is a risk of putting audiences off wanting to see the show, for fear that their memories from seeing/reading the original material would be tarnished.
Before I saw Mary Poppins, It was suggested to me by a few people to disassociate the stage show from the film I watched growing up. To treat them as two different things. Initially this worried me slightly- I wondered if this musical would be so very different from what I knew that it would change my opinion of it. Or that I would keep trying to reference points in the film. Interestingly, and rather thankfully; the show was different, but it has been cleverly written and has the power of being a fresh piece of material which still incorporates certain familiarities from the film that act almost as a safety cushion. I came away feeling like I had got a whole lot more out of the stage show than I could ever get from the film, and that I had a greater understanding of PL Travis and her writing. Instead of changing the way I see Mary Poppins, it enhanced it.
The show makes anything within the realms of set design possible. From life size unfolding dolls houses to projections, lighting, smoke and stars for the rooftop and night scenes, to giving the characters the ability to fly and walk up walls. There was a surprise at every new scene, I just didn’t know what to expect next. A cacophony of colour and variety; each set completely different from the next, it was the best I have seen. The flame of energy and element of surprise remained ignited throughout the show, and there honestly was not a moment when I wasn’t completely spell-bound by what was in front of me.
I would recommend this show to everyone. It is beautifully written, cleverly staged and utterly magical. I know that it will stay with me for many years to come, and if the chance arose again, I would book tickets to see it in an instant.