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Review- Mary Poppins, not quite practically perfect

Mary Poppins - The Broadway Musical

A musical based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film

Original Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

New songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe

Directed by Madeleine Johns

Produced by Redcliffe Musical Theatre

Redcliffe Cultural Centre, Downs St, Redcliffe

Season: March 4-20. Information: 488 103 759

Mary Poppins is the very well-known and loved story of a nanny who pops in one day following an advertisement written by the Banks’ children which goes up the chimney and stays until the wind changes. The story of Poppins has been enjoyed by generations of children who in turn have become parents thanks to the vision of Walt Disney and it is probably this version that most know.

Mary Poppins, the musical is a little bit different from the movie. It is also a very difficult technical show to produce. All the songs that we grew up with are in the musical as well as a few extras. One song I did not like was Playing the Game where the toys come to life. I felt this was a very dark themed song in contrast to the whole bubbliness which is Mary Poppins.

I did like Brimstone and Treacle which is sung by Miss Andrew (Mr Banks’ former nanny), who is hired by Mrs Banks after Poppins disappears. Miss Andrew was played by Trish Dearness, who was absolutely delightful as the ‘holy terror’ from Mr Bank’s childhood.

The main characters of Poppins and Bert were played by Lauren Roche and Jackson Head respectively. Lauren looks every inch the spit and spot Poppins we all adore and Jackson was equally the lovable, cheery, cheeky chimney sweep, Bert.

Mr and Mrs Banks were played by Reagan Warner and Kristie Pitt. A lovely couple, who were well paired on stage and fitting the roles superbly. There are six children playing the roles of Jane and Michael Banks – opening night we were treated to the talents of Alice Simpson and Thomas Bapty.

The singing was wonderful – Lauren Roche has a lovely range on her soprano and she mastered all the songs well. Jackson Head’s voice was delightful as well and perhaps his role was a bit more challenging vocally, also using the cockney accent. The full cast numbers were strong and vibrant. For me Step in Time was the best of the show. The choreography (by Mike Lapot) was really great – I just love tap dancing and of course, it suits this song to a tee.

The costumes were simply superb – Poppins’ wardrobe was exactly how I remember. In fact, everyone was dressed that way. With the extra scenes like the Talking Shop, other vibrant costumes and more characters were able to be added, rather than just the drab London street wear of the day. I was sad that the scene with the dancing penguins and the ‘Pearlies’ was missing, however the ‘Pearlies’ appeared in the final scenes.

The sets for this show were extremely well done. The inside of Cherry Tree Lane was one large set in itself, providing the front door, Mr Banks’ study, Mrs Banks’ parlour and the stairs leading to the bedrooms, which folded into a box that turned around and then opened again to become the kitchen. The children’s bedroom was two large pieces which came together from either side of the stage and clipped together. Other pieces wheeled on and off, either motorised, such as the chimney and partial roof which Bert sits on, or were placed by crew or actors.

The kitchen also had a wonky table, which falls down and rights itself again, with two legs sliding out and in on the right hand side of the table. It also had two lovely rows of plates which crash down and put themselves to right again, all as part of Poppins’ magic putting things back to the way they were as she sings Spoonful of Sugar.

Other scenes were created with elaborate drops, some of which could be seen through to show the inside of Cherry Tree Lane behind. Still others used drops and technology through the use of a projector, such as in the scene within the Talking Shop where the cast sing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

I have already made mention that this is a technically difficult show to produce and unfortunately this is where it fell down. Lighting (spots) were not in the right place at the right time. Mics were not working (or turned on) so that the first few words Bert utters when he opens the show were lost.

Set changes took a while and there seemed to be a lot of fiddling around to move them to the back of the stage so that drops and curtains could be moved into place (these coming part way down and waiting until a set piece was moved before full descent).

This needs to be more practiced so that it runs smoothly and seamlessly from one scene to the next. I do appreciate the size of the set that is being moved, however at no time, should curtains be moved so far aside that the back of the stage is on view and you can see other pieces sitting waiting for their scene. I also understand that stage crew need to be on the stage to move these pieces, however I would have had them dressed as sweeps to blend in a bit more. There were just too many errors that could not be put down to first night jitters.

The orchestral music was exceptionally good, although too loud, and at times with big crescendos was drowning out the singers on the stage.

That being said this is an enjoyable show. Mary and Bert, and the rest of the cast, take you away for two and a half hours to another place and time, where you can relive your own childhood memories of Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins.

Full marks to an amateur theatre company for the vision and fortitude to put this one on the stage.