‘Mary Poppins’ was wondrous.
The story of ‘Mary Poppins’ is one which many have had the pleasure of growing up with, watching as Julie Andrews’s character transformed the young Banks children into respectable young people. Now, that beautiful story has flown into Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne.
Directed by James Powell, Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne, the musical follows the Banks’ household as the family searches for a new nanny for the young children and eventually comes across the “practically perfect” Mary Poppins, who both teaches the children to be respectful and ultimately brings the family together.
The wonderfully cast titular character, portrayed by Stefanie Jones, marvels as Mary Poppins. She embodied the role so perfectly, one could be forgiven for thinking she was the original! Between the mannerisms of the character and the expert comedic timing, there could have been no better actress than Stephanie Jones for this role.
Unlike the film, the musical brings to life new characters, most notably Winifred Banks (Lucy Maunder) and George Banks’ childhood nanny, Miss Andrew (Marina Prior). With the addition of these new characters, we are gifted another aspect of why the Banks family is the way it is; Mr Banks is a stressed man who was raised by an unforgiving woman. This new layer adds more sympathy to the hardworking George Banks, who just doesn’t want to be fired from his job.
Meanwhile, Bert the chimney sweep is brought to life by Jack Chambers, who is an absolutely incredible dancer to watch. In one particular moment, he climbs up the side of the stage and dances upside down on a tiny platform, suspended above the stage. It makes the audience’s heart skip a beat and their eyes do a double take, but Chambers handles it like the pro he is, casually tap dancing upside down with a smile on his face.
Fantastic dance numbers, Choreographed by Matthew Bourne and Stephan Mear, such as ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ which was complex and fast-paced – if you blink you’ll miss something – coupled with old and new songs, such as ‘Practically Perfect’ and ‘Brimstone and Treacle’ – which both Stefanie Jones and Marina Prior absolutely nailed – it’s hard to remember you’re sitting in a theatre and not actually on Cherry Tree Lane with the rest of the characters.
Despite such incredible performances, there was one scene that felt out of place. Following an argument between Jane and Michael, Mary Poppins brings to life their toys, in which a huge clown emerges and sings “Playing the Game”. While most likely intended as another entertaining display of Mary Poppins’ magic-like abilities, the overall feel was quite spooky and unsettling.
That being said, the lighting and illusions throughout were quite magnificent to watch, and brought the musical back on track. From the cage that appears to trap Miss Andrews to the large and iconic bird umbrella that descends from the top of the stage, and the way Bert would literally open a new scene with the snap of his fingers; the creatives behind the curtain should feel truly proud of their work. Without Hugh Vanstone and Natasha Katz (lighting), and Jim Steinmeyer and Paul Keive (illusions), ‘Mary Poppins’ wouldn’t be the force that it is. Overall, the entire team did the piece justice and should be celebrated for their successful production of such a renowned story to life on stage.
‘Mary Poppins’ performs until June 18, 2023 at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne before visiting Adelaide. For more information visit the official website.