When a production has credits that include producer Cameron Mackintosh, director Richard Eyre and choreographer (and co-director) Matthew Bourne to its name then you know you’re guaranteed a night of quality entertainment. What is surprising is that this production still surpasses expectations; Mary Poppins may very well be the best show on in any theatre in the UK at the moment. Yes, it’s that good!
Mackintosh had a struggle ahead of him when it came to getting the rights to create this musical. Humorously depicted in a recent movie, Saving Mr. Banks, it was no secret that author P.L. Travers was not a fan of the Walt Disney movie that adapted her novels. Yet Mackintosh secured the rights to go ahead with the musical by promising to find the right balance between the darker elements of the novels and new arrangements of the beloved Sherman Brothers’ songs that made the movie so memorable.
The result was this production, with new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, alongside the likes of A Spoonful of Sugar and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The balance of all the creative talents involved has made an utterly flawless production. Just like the nanny herself, it’s practically perfect in every way.
A huge amount of the credit has to go to Zizi Strallen as the kind-hearted and magical nanny who goes to assist the Banks family in Edwardian London. It’s no easy task to step into the shadows of Julie Andrews but Strallen’s Poppins makes for an instantly quirky, mysterious and loveable character and, dare I say it, she even makes Poppins a little bit sexy as she hints at flirtations with Bert. Matt Lee also excels as the chimney sweep, with his easy-going charm and chirpy good nature. The entire cast is fantastic and every actor gets a chance to shine. A special mention should go to Jabez Cheeseman who steals every scene he appears in as the rather naughty Michael Banks. There is definitely a star in the making here.
With a beautifully-created set that often looks like a pop-up book or a painting come to life, and astonishing choreography to every musical number, this production is a magical new take on the classic story. There are a good few surprises and tricks as well that have the audience gasping in awe. This is solid gold entertainment for any age group, be they naughty or nice. This Mary Poppins will win over everyone’s hearts.