Mary Poppins the musical opens as the curtain falls to an immediate atmospheric stage. The show stems from a strong source: PL Travers’ novel and the Walt Disney film but the transference to stage is quite seamless. Smokey chimneys and lavish pop-out staging lifts us into memorable song, polished dancing, pitch perfect singing, storytelling and some interesting stunts.
The audience sing along to some of the well- known songs such as Chim Chim Cher-ee by Matt Lee as Bert who plays a convincing Cockney lad. Zizi Strallen, is practically perfect in the lead role as Mary and from when she arrives – out turned feet, pink cheeks with parrot-headed brolly in hand – she is very well cast.
Imparting some kind but fair discipline to Jane and Michael Banks and politely yet firmly handling Mr and Mrs Banks she personifies the sense of discipline with a spark of fun. But the first half of the show could have benefited from a lighter side in terms of more sense of humour.
Grainne Reniham as the bird woman holds the audience captivated as she sang ‘Feed the Birds’ incredibly exposing the impoverished side of the times. With an effective backdrop of St Paul’s and birds in flight, this scene demonstrates a contrast to her and the obvious wealth, status and disassociation of the passers-by.
Until later on when we see a change of heart. Mrs Corry effortlessly played by Wreh-asha Walton which brought a lively fun element to the popular song ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. Superbly choreographed by Matthew Bourne this fast paced scene with a complex dance routine was absolutely fantastically performed by the whole ensemble.
The set constantly transfers us into a new venue from the children’s bedroom to the Banks’ kitchen then to eerie soot- covered chimneys to a park full of incredible dancing statues. The audience clapped along to the final (reprise) ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ as they took to their feet and Mary Poppins took to the skies. A real family sugary treat and one for the diary.
Reviewed at Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, runs from 2 November to 10 December 2016, and touring see http://www.marypoppins.co.uk/.