“Anything can happen if you let it”
It is becoming increasingly clear that a show isn’t a show if a Strallen isn’t involved, even as an usher, and it is now the turn of Zizi to ascend to the role of leading lady, taking the title role in a mammoth UK tour of Mary Poppins which has started at the Curve in Leicester and which is already booking through to this time next year. And it isn’t too hard to see why such confidence has been invested in the future of the show when it is as stupendously good a piece of musical theatre as this.
I never got round to seeing the show in the West End – Julian Fellowes’ book building on P.L. Travers’ original books as well as the Disney film and composing duo Stiles + Drewe adding to the iconic score by the Sherman Brothers – and it’s an age since I saw the film so it really did have all the glorious impact of being a fresh new show for me but even if you did manage to see it, the lure of this fresh new production ought to tempt you along to one of the cities where it is playing to relive the joy.
From the sparkling choreography from Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear – both revisiting and revitalising so many famous sequences – to Bob Crowley’s set design – which allows for all sorts of magical treats to be conjured from the stage – tour director James Powell brings a wonderful sense of occasion to the show, spectacle going hand in hand with real emotion as the familial trials of the Banks are placed front and centre, Milo Twomey and Rebecca Lock as the parents really are excellent.
The kids are a treat too (Madeline Banbury and Colby Mulgrew at this performance) taken on this heart-warming journey by Matt Lee’s hugely charming Bert and Strallen’s intriguing take on the titular nanny, an almost abrasive disciplinarian to begin with who only truly warms up in the second act. She sings and dances (and flies) like a dream though, confidence exuding across the stage in the set pieces (even if the unexpected musical highlight was her duet of ‘Feed The Birds’ with Grainne Reniham’s Bird Woman).
Ian Townsend’s band sound excellent and if the new songs of Stiles + Drewe blend in a little anonymously, it’s only because they’re up against classics like ‘Jolly Holiday’, ‘Step In Time’ and ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, all bringing just as much cheer to the parents as to the kids in the audience. I almost wish I’d seen this at Christmastime, so festive did it make me feel, but as it is the fun in Mary Poppins can now be found literally all year round – a tour worth tracking down.