Getting Started - Mary Poppins
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
On hearing the joyous news that Mary Poppins would be flying back into the west end I was reminded of a dinner I had a few years ago. We’d been having a long discussion about how fabulous the show is, how well Cameron Mackintosh had translated it onto stage and what was probably a monologue from myself about how perfectly Laura Michelle-Kelly was when I was told I needed to start writing theatre reviews. The conversation ended with an explanation that stars in reviews could be replaced with Laura Michelle-Kellys. Although I didn’t follow up on that proposition then I’ve decided now that I can start writing reviews and hopefully you enjoy them and find them useful.
To start this off I’ve decided that a post closing review of Mary Poppins, especially given it’s return, would be the ideal way to start, so here goes.
I should probably start this by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the movie. Although I enjoyed the songs I found the amount of sugar ladled on to be vomit inducing. And I’ve been informed that the author felt similar as she cried upon seeing the movie feeling her story had been destroyed. So it took Mackintosh considerable effort to secure the rights to the stage show, especially knowing that Disney was now considered part of the source material. I feel the author would have been thrilled with the result.
The show is not an adaptation of the film but a reimagining of the story using the books as the basis. It’s taken back to the 1800’s so Mrs Banks, rather than being a jovial suffragette (why the film wanted to belittle this movement I have no idea), is an actress turned housewife who is unsure on her role and how to perform it. The children are brats, which is the reason they couldn’t keep a nanny and Mr Banks places unrealistic expectations upon himself and his family. The whole family is dysfunctional and unable to communicate with each other which is why Mary Poppins arrives. The show charts the changes within all the characters throughout the show, which Mary Poppins navigates and guides.
Of course, there are classic songs from the movie and most (though not all) are recreated here with amended lyrics to work in the new setting. Jolly Holiday is wonderful with the park becoming almost a cartoon of itself, though it does start off darker with statues coming to life. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious happens in Mrs Cory’s shop when they are buying letters and with fantastic new lyrics and superb choreography brings the entire house down. Step in Time is another visual treat given the full stage reworking.
Of course the suite of music is extended with Practically Perfect (guess who sings that) through to Anything can Happen, beautiful in sentiment and wonderful staging set within the stars.
One new song, Temper! Temper!, has the children being tourtured by their toys (they said it’s darker) but concerns in the Netherlands this was changed to a more melodic Playing the Game. This is more likely to be listened to on it’s own but within the context of the story Temper! Temper! Is a better fit so it will be interesting to see what the opt for this time around.
Of course in the new production there is a new cast but a special mention has tobe given to both Laura Michelle Kelly and Gavin Lee who looked like they were born to play these roles. I got to see them in the West End and Broadway and was blown away each time, the magic in the show never faded.
I fully anticipate the new cast keeping this magic alive. I know Zizi Strallen has wowed in the role previously following in her aunt’s footsteps (will Summer play Mary next?) and it’s great to welcome Charlie Stemp back to the west end after garnering some great roles in New York.
So this show gets a 5 “Laura Michelle Kelly” star review from the first production. I full anticipate it'll maintain this next Autumn.