The pure delight of Mary Poppins will ignite the love of theatre and story in any child and reminds us grown ups that we should never stop believing in our own dreams.
The pure delight of Mary Poppins will ignite the love of theatre and story in any child and reminds us grown ups that we should never stop believing in our own dreams. Or, as only the best people say: it’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – and deserves every standing ovation and sold out sign that it’s going to get.
Throw away your expectations from the 1964 Disney film (with Julie Andrews) or P L Travers’ books. With the rights to both, Cameron Mackintosh joined forces with Disney to create something so new that, once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to imagine it as anything else.
The original 2004 West End production won Olivier Awards and went to Broadway in 2006 to be nominated for Tony Awards. If the heart-felt standing ovation of last nights opening is anything to go by, the Australian production won’t be closing for a very long time.
Every scene reveals more of Bob Crowley’s spectacular – and Tony winning – design as it captures the nostalgia of a black and white illustrated story, the whimsy of a pop up book, the wonder of a painting and the fantasy of a multi-million dollar movie. But for all the whizz-bang stage effects, the soul of Mary Poppins is the story.
Mary’s magic shows her charges an unforgettable world, but the magic of Mary is balanced by the reality of a family who have forgotten how to love each other in a world where banks can kick people out of their homes.
George and Winifred Banks’ two children have gone through six nannies in four weeks. Jane and Michael are determined and bratty, but only because they want a nanny who will love and play with them and even though George burns their job description for an ideal nanny, Mary Poppins still answers the call.
The cast of musical theatre veterans and our youngest soon-to-be super stars are so fresh that it’s almost impossible not to sing along.
With perfect comic timing, Marina Prior brings heart to the downtrodden Winifred and Philip Quast lets George realise just what he nearly lost. Matt Lee may not be the best singer, but his Bert is loveable and I think he can dance. Judi Connelli was born to be an evil Nanny and Debra Byrne’s poignant Bird Woman is reminiscent of her Grizabella in the first Australian CATS.
Keeping up with these old-timers are ten performers sharing the pivotal roles of Jane and Michael. If the rest are as professional and ridiculously talented as Kurtis Papdinis and Haley Edwards, they too will be the stars of the show.
And everyone is supported by an ensemble who bring this irresistible world to life by creating the atmosphere, emotion and joy that flows from the stage to even the furthest god-seat. Watching the ensemble, audiences lucky enough to see an understudy perform will be in for a treat.
But as practically perfect as everyone is, Verity Hunt-Ballard’s Mary is the performance to remember. With a voice that will rightly be compared to Julie Andrews and a lightness of foot that equals Matt Lee, Hunt-Ballard makes Mary her own by adding mystery to her sternness and a hint of regret and sadness to her love. Even with the most brilliant of scripts, it’s the performer who makes an audience love a character and Hunt-Ballard ensures that everyone leaves the theatre wanting to dance and knowing that they will start looking for the best in all people.
Bring every child you know to Mary Poppins because they deserve to see something this gorgeous – and bring all the grown ups you know because they deserve to feel like a child again.
Photo: David Wyatt