Review: Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre

Someone clearly has too much time on their hands…enjoy the wordplay in this review of this spectcular revival of Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre

“Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-I
Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-I”

Strallens to the fore,
umbrellas at the ready,
penguins…well we won’t mention them. Making its return to the Prince
Edward Theatre where it debuted in 2004, this
revival of
classic musical Mary Poppins
arrives at just the right time to
lift our spirits as the nights start to draw
in and politicians spout
falsehood after falsehood to further darken our nights. And there’s a
rollicking good time to be had here
as the show recalls the
good old days of easy-going entertainment.
In the
leading role, Zizi Strallen
is a constant delight as the
stern nanny with just the right amount of
twinkle in her eye as she alights upon the Banks’ household. Vocally, she
is impressive too, whether rebuffing
Charlie Stemp’s charmingly flirtatious Bert whose
enormous perma-grin may or may not be the result of
xanax
pills.
In the roles of the domestic staff, Claire Machin
and Jack North get many a
laugh and
if George Banks isn’t the  
dad of your dreams, Joseph Millson pretty much is.
Obviously
children play a big part
in this world and the pair
of tykes I saw this evening were
unusually
sweet and sour as their characters are much naughtier than the film.

So, much of the production is practically perfect but it is not
unfair to ask a few questions
of some of the decisions.
Is the racial make-up of the company acceptable or does Malinda Parris’ Mrs
Corry feel a little tokenistic as the
only significant character of colour?
Does Petula Clark make enough of the limited role of Bird Woman?
Is Charlie Stemp in danger of being typecast?
Lastly, why did Julian Fellowes think it was
a good idea to excise the suffragettes
in favour of making Mrs Banks an actress? A regressive but
perhaps expected decisions for this antediluvian writer.
X does mark the spot for
endless treasures elsewhere though.
Choreography from both Sir Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear
is out of this world with some stunning routines.
There’s lots of magic and the
standard of Paul Kieve and Jim Steinmeyer’s
illusions is sky high – literally so – with
lots of surprises
in store no matter where you’re sat in the theatre.
Graham Hurman’s conducting of his
accomplished orchestra, along with Stephen Brooker’s musical supervision,
relishes all the brilliance of the Sherman Brothers’
fine score, blending
in hard-working contemporary composers Stiles and Drewe’s
latter-day additions
as if they’d always
co-existed side by side in one seamless whole.
Really, in the
end, Mary Poppins is the kind of
production full of uncomplicated fun that can’t help but
uplift the
soul in the most delightful way.

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
Mary Poppins is booking at the Prince Edward Theatre until 3rd May

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