This week a new era in musical theatre exploded onto the stage of the Adelaide Festival Theatre, leaving a rapturous crowd excited and gobsmacked.
The story is familiar, much of the music is familiar, but this sensational partnership between writers, designers, back stage crew, technicians, lighting, illusions and magic with fabulous actors, dancers and musicians, absolutely breaks new ground. Yes we have had other block-buster musicals, but Mary Poppins sets spectacular new benchmarks in theatre production.
From the very opening, it was plain that the sets were going to be stunning, and there are many of them (Scenic and Costume Design by Bob Crowley), but the scene changes themselves are a work of art, as, for example, an impressive London Street transmogrifies before our very eyes into the parlour of the Banks family home at 17, Cherry Tree Lane; or a park becomes a chimney-sweep’s rooftop.
The magic continues with neat illusions, slick and clever and very energetic dancing and choreography (Stephen Mear), and first class stylised acting and singing by a superb cast of actors, ensemble and dancers. Stephanie Jones as the admirable and inscrutable Mary Poppins, and Jack Chambers as her sidekick, Bert, deserve special mention, not only because of their pivotal roles, but because they each fit them so well. Jones is not Julie Andrews, neither should she be, but her clear, true voice and uncomplicated demeanour fits the part perfectly. Chambers as Bert is energetic, a spectacular dancer and a darn good singer. Patti Newton as the lovable, lonely “Feed the Birds” Lady is equally poignant and memorable.
The show is satisfyingly true to the original stories by P. L. Travers, the original songs by Richard and Robert Sherman, and to the familiar way these have been immortalised by the 1964 Disney Movie. There are also some additional songs and arrangements for the stage musical by George Styles and Anthony Drewe, which are absolutely compatible.
There is altogether so much to enjoy, even beyond the talented acting, singing and dancing, but perhaps the most lasting impression is the, extraordinary, and truly memorable, even magical and breath-taking special effects and the technical achievement of staging this wonderful show as a platform for the world class performances.
All this can be summed up in one word: you guessed it: SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS!
Disney, Cameron Mackintosh and Michael Cassel Group present
book Julian Fellowes | music and lyrics Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman | additional music and lyrics George Stiles and Anthony Drew
Co-directors Matthew Bourne and Richard Eyre
Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre
Dates: 6 July – 27 August 2023
Tickets: from $59.90