If you don’t believe magic before seeing Mary Poppins the Musical, you will after. The classic tale of the magical Nanny whose no-nonsense manner is only overshadowed by her wicked sense of humour has flown into Melbourne for a strictly limited season at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Based on PL Travers cherished tales and the iconic 1964 film starring Julie Andrews, this new production honours its past while truly embracing the future with impeccable special effects. It is a nostalgic romp down memory lane as the beloved Nanny takes the audience on a wholesome adventure that manages to never dip into saccharine sweetness.
Written by legendary screenwriter Julian Fellows (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park) and with music from the original film as well as more recent additions, this production is practically perfect in every way.
It would be easy to fall back on the brilliant writing and timeless songs of the original, but the cast never rest on their laurels, bringing a heightened sense of energy and chaos into the otherwise stuffy world of the Banks family. Tom Wren is the staunch “head of the house” George Banks, whose misguided attempts to instil discipline into his children Jane and Michael (played by Harriet Adler and Sebastian Sero) are completely undermined by the delightful Mary Poppins (Stefanie Jones). As Mary takes the children on a life changing adventure that manages to teach them good manners, good principles and most importantly how to have a good time, they encounter a variety of characters. From the Bird Woman in rags to a cheeky chimney sweep, Jane and Michael are taught values through Mary Poppins and her colourful array of cohorts.
These include Marina Prior’s glorious turn as aforementioned Bird Woman who is double cast as the truly terrifying Miss Andrew (a Nanny not nearly as magical as Mary), and Bert, the always charming chimney sweep played by Jack Chambers.
The show is full of beloved show tunes from “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to “Practically Perfect”, but it is “Step in Time” that really showed the remarkable talent of the cast. The tap number features the majority of the cast, and the young performers keep up with the more seasoned members. It’s a showstopping joyful performance unlike anything else.
While there’s a few dodgy accents that show a hint of the Australian heritage of the cast and a questionable costume decision regarding statue-come-to-life Neleus, there is very little not to love about this production. In fact, from memory Dick Van Dyke’s accent was never spot on either!
What makes this production stand out from other musicals is the phenomenal staging and special effects. Props appears as if from nowhere, chimney sweeps climb walls and nannies fly through the air on an umbrella. Mary Poppins a magical experience, is at times clever and silly, but ultimately it has heart.
Suitable for the whole family, there is so much to love in this show, bask in the wholesomeness that is Mary Poppins.
Mary Poppins is playing a strictly limited season.
Disney and Cameron Mackintosh 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: Her Majesty’s Theatre| 219 Exhibition Street Melbourne VIC
Dates: until 30 April 2023
Tickets: from $59.90