As a massive Disney geek and Cameron Mackintosh fan, I've been so excited to watch their collaboration of Mary Poppins the musical for a long time!
Mackintosh acquired the rights from Pamela Travers in 1993, leading to the world premier at Bristol Hippodrome in 2004. After a three year stint at the Prince Edward Theatre in the West End, the Mackintosh/ Disney production made its way across the pond to Broadway where it found its home at the New Amsterdam Theatre for over six years!
Now this year, this huge-scale production has embarked on a national UK tour and I was lucky enough to catch it on its tour stop at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
I held off on buying tickets for this show for a long time, purely because of the ridiculously high tickets prices (our usual £30 seats were double the price... But a blog post on this topic will be coming to this blog soon!). However a few weeks into its month-long run at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, I kept hearing nothing but rave reviews about the show all around the city so I just had to bag myself some tickets.
We couldn't afford the standard seats which would set my sister and I back £120, so we settled for "restricted view" seats which were £27 each. This obviously meant that our view really was restricted, giving us good sight of downstage but could only see half the performances when they utilised the rest of the stage. So please do keep this in mind when reading this review!
Though I still saw the show and enjoyed it immensely!
The story is one we all know and love; Travers' tale of the magical nanny, Mary Poppins, who brings fun and fantasy to two children, Jane and Michael Banks (did you just sing their names too..?!). We are all of course familiar with the world renown 1964 film, starring the one and only Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, but the stage show follows a slightly different plot which has a bit more depth and really suits the stage. The musical hones in more on family relationships: the lack of father figure for the Banks children, how Mr Banks' scarring childhood affected him as an adult, the role of a mother and of course, how the mystical presence of Mary Poppins helps to resolve all this with help of some fantastic songs and dance numbers.
Zizi Strallen perfectly takes the lead as Mary Poppins. She appears in the majority of the scenes and really carries the whole show with her charming charisma and impressive performances. I read in an article that she brings a stronger dance aspect than previous Poppins characters due to her past dance training. Strallen seems flawless as she floats across the stage in every routine, accompanied by her beautiful singing voice and quirky personality.
Another star of the show is Matt Lee who plays cheeky chappy, tap dancing chimney sweep sensation, Bert. Despite my worries that no one could surpass Dick Van Dyke for me, Lee absolutely smashed this role. He brought a whole new dimension to Bert's character- not just a cockney- talking sweep, but a caring alternative male figure to the Banks children. His character development throughout the show is heartwarming and he was definitely my favourite character! His performance in the massive tap number, Step In Time, was one that stood out to me most. How he can tap dance and sing upside down, hanging from the ceiling, to land back on the stage and dance again straight away so perfectly is beyond me! A really really impressive performance from Matt Lee.
Strallen and Lee are joined by a large cast who help make the whole show. The ensemble is one of the strongest I've seen in a while and really blew me away with their performances. The ensemble pieces were by far my favourite parts of the show: the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step In Time routines were incredible as the whole cast performed effortlessly, utilising the whole stage. I love it when strong individual performances come together seamlessly to create something really special.
As I mentioned, the Step In Time dance was by far my favourite part of the show. Also quite possibly one of my favourite musical theatre routines ever. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I adore a good tap routine and this one didn't disappoint! My sister said that she looked over at me during the routine and I wouldn't stop beaming... It was completely mesmerising. Matthew Bourne is one of my favourite choreographers and his work in this show is some of his best yet! The routines are so high- energy and genuinely difficult to do, so when the entire cast pull it off so effortlessly, it's very impressive.
Even though we could only see some of the stage from our seats, of what we saw, the set design for this show was out of this world. Possibly the best set design I've ever witnessed. The fold-out dolls house of Cherry Tree Lane was the staple design, full with intricate details like the stairway which Mary floated up and down throughout the show and kitchen that was home to so many magical tricks. Every set piece was beautiful and cleverly utilised on stage - the set design was one of my favourite aspects of the show and I just wish I could've witnessed it in its fullest form from normal seats!
As well as the set design, Bob Crowley has created some fantastic costumes for the production. Mary Poppins generally remains in her traditional get-up of blue and red coats, pin stripes and a twee hat. But it is the fantastical characters' costumes that really caught my imagination. In particular, the costumes from the 'Jolly Holiday' and 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' routines impressed me most- full of gorgeous bright colours, quirky design features and an array of textures.
Overall, this was a really lovely production. Neither Disney or Cameron Mackintosh ever disappoint when it comes to large- scale, massive- budget productions. It's perfect for all the family: full to the brim with catchy music, impressive dance, fun characters and story. Though I wouldn't pay full price at £60 a ticket to see it, I'm glad I managed to see it whilst it's in Plymouth.
I give this show an impressive ★★★★.
Have you seen Mary Poppins the musical? Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting me @LittleEllieMae :)
Ellie Mae x
Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos credited to Johan Persson.