It has been a long time since she previously skimmed over the housetops of Theatreland, umbrella high up, feet flawlessly together – 15 years in fact. But now, Mary Poppins is back to carry enchantment to the Big Smoke and to bring order and wander back to the streets of London.
The genuine message of Poppins, obviously, isn’t one of control and monetary integrity yet of affection and the power and beauty of the creative mind – not forgetting love. The caring and devout nanny who lands in the home of Jane and Michael Banks in reply to their letter requesting and stating “you must be kind, you must be pretty” perceives quickly that the issues she experiences (insubordinate kids, quarrelling parents) spring from Mr Banks’ conviction that his solitary job in life is to pay for everything by working himself to the bone at the bank.
In this popular musical adaptation, co-written by Cameron Mackintosh, with a book by Julian Fellowes, and extra music created by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe enhancing the music by the Sherman Brothers which stood as the backbone and foundation to the much cherished 1964 Disney film, the ethical circular segment of the story is intensely underlined. Banks’ redemption happens when he makes the right, moral choice instead of one that attests that cash is important for the good of its own. This is a story that comes away from the colourful and romantic story we all know and love from the Disney movie and focuses more on the human heart and soul.
Throughout the show, there’s not a lot of colour or brightness in Bob Crowley‘s sets and outfits besides the times where the characters visit Mary’s fantasy world. Crowley dresses the wasp-waisted Mary (Zizi Strallen) in a delectable choice of tight-fitting coats, cheerful Bert (Charlie Stemp) in spangled petticoats and gives both a hallucinogenic nursery of blossoms for the changed park, and an eminent, point of view resisting inside of the Bank of England.
Despite the fact that it frequently mirrors and references the motion picture, the stage show without a doubt has its very own tone. Its accounts – including a somewhat tedious droll succession in the kitchen where Mary fixes all the furniture that was broken when a cake formula turns out badly – are all the more firmly dependent on the books by PL Travers than the film.
Stiles and Drewe’s melody are progressively darker and less sugary; “Temper, Temper” that used to alarm kids in the crowd left the show in 2009, yet the similarly odd “Playing the Game” still breathes life into toys that are quite creepy.
The production’s best moments are those that simply let loose with delight and marvel. Richard Eyre coordinates the show with pace and panache, much aided by the movement direction of Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear which utilise refined move steps to breathe life into statues and rambunctious, magnificent tap to get the chimney sweeps racing across the stage in “Step in Time“.
In that grouping Stemp as Bert gets the chance to stroll around the curve, tapping his feet while upside down. It is a great feature and a favourite part of the production, similar to Stemp’s whole execution. I’d love to have seen a greater amount of him; straight from wowing Broadway alongside Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly!, he is an astounding musicals talent. He has such a unique and natural elegance – just in the state of his arms and the casual push of his movement – and genuine winning appeal.
His radiance lights up each scene he is in and he has a delicately appealing compatibility with Strallen’s Mary. Venturing into a segment her sister Scarlett has additionally played, she makes it her very own with her all the way open eyes and saucy articulations.
There’s superb help too from Petula Clark as the Bird Woman (86 years of age and striking a blow for continuous imperativeness), Amy Griffiths (delicately contacting as Mrs Banks) and Joseph Millson as the gradually unyielding George.
Overall this is a production I thoroughly recommend going to see. It is a refreshing and unique look at Mary Poppins through a deeper set of eyes.