It’s been thirteen years since Mary Poppins and her umbrella and her magic bag (that holds things that are impossibly big for it) landed on stage in Melbourne. It’s the same production that first debuted on the West End in 2004, inspired by the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews – including classic songs by the Sherman Brothers (like “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Feed the Birds”) along with a number of new songs by Anthony Drewe.
If you don’t
know the original story, I’m sad that you’ve been deprived of Mary Poppins all
your life. Go watch the film and then come back!
still have Supercalifrafilisticexpialidocious stuck in your head? Okay then,
we’re right to go.
Theatrical version, produced by Cameron Mackintosh, uses a storybook motif in
the sets, transforming cold grey London streetscapes into magical colour
interiors and exteriors once the titular nanny arrives to help the Banks
Jones brings the right mix of blunt and wickedly funny to the role of Mary,
while Jack Chambers’ Bert is charming and flirtatious, acting as a kind of
narrator – and later stealing the show during the “Step in Time” sequence, a
thrilling exhibition of furious tap dancing. Astonishing.
who played Mrs Banks back in 2010, has been shifted to the roles of Bird Woman
and Miss Andrew – which have previously been roles for two different
performers, but it totally makes sense as a shared role. Prior brings the right
about of melancholy to “Feed the Birds” and completely wicked performing the
show-stopping “Brimstone and Treacle”.
of the original film but mines P.L. Travers’ books for inspiration in expanding
the narrative and adding in new songs and adventures. For a Disney production,
it doesn’t feel as saccharine as it might have – big blockbuster musicals have
a habit of sanding off the darker edges but this Mary is as mercurial as
There is a
true magic in watching this show come to life on stage, because theatrical
trickery can make you believe a woman can fly and do all sorts of
sleight-of-hand on her way to redeeming Mr Banks from being an unfeeling workaholic.
It’s a practically
perfect theatre experience for the whole family, unless you’re sitting at the
back of the stalls in Her Majesty’s – much of which is considered “restricted
view”. Cheaper seating ($60 in the last two rows, $90 for the next three) helps
to make the show more affordable but paying $120+ will allow you to see the
cheap-seat disadvantaged-point, patrons will see about a third of the stage
because of the Dress Circle overhang and may be further blocked by structural
supports. Much of Mary Poppins is designed with height in mind – the main
character can fly, after all. There is a sequence where Mary, Bert and the
children are on the roof of the house which plays to this part of the theatre as
The end of
Act One and Two are both entirely obscured and while in the context of the
show, it’s easy to understand what has happened, the audience at the back is
robbed of the emotional catharsis. And the final thrilling bit of theatre
magic. A real shame.
If you can
afford to pay to see the whole show, it’s probably worth it.
- Keith Gow, Theatre First