Mary Poppins at Prince Edward Theatre
Living in the shadow of the original 1964 movie Mary Poppins isn’t easy. There are so many powerful moments fitting together so neatly that it’s hard to imagine a stage adaptation coming close to matching its brilliance. The production at the Prince Edward Theatre doesn’t quite rise to the same level – but it does comes close. A lot of time and money went into the creation of this musical, resulting in a heart-warming and hilarious nostalgia-trip with plenty of pizzazz.
A powerful stage design by Bob Crowle takes the audience into the 19th, rather than the early 20th century – an interesting choice, giving him the opportunity to show off a beautifully crafted set strongly resembling a Dickens novel, which works wonders in creating a striking contrast to Mary’s magical day trips. ‘The choreography by Sir Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear and costumes – also by Crowley – are equally sturdy, producing an overall effect of pure spectacle which never ceases to amaze and entertain.
The casting, too, is extremely well selected. Joseph Millson as Mr Banks and Amy Griffiths as Winifred Banks are entertaining and embrace their characters in full; Claire Moore as Miss Andrew is hilarious; and Petula Clark as the Bird Woman is heart-wrenching. Julie Andrews leaves very large shoes to fill, but Zizi Strallen delivers a perfectly enjoyable performance. She feels very much at home in the musical numbers, where she succeeds in creating a grandiose atmosphere every time; it’s in the dialogue that she seems to struggle slightly, grappling with whether to embrace or reject Andrews’s influence. Charlie Stemp is practically made for the character of Bert – like a Dick Van Dyke without the ridiculous Cockney pastiche. Nuala Peberdy and Fred Wilcox are the perfect mixture of cheekiness and cuteness to match the characters of Jane and Michael Banks.
Where the show falls down a bit is in the moments which aren’t from the movie. Of course, this production attempts to embrace elements from the book, but it’s just glaringly obvious that the music is sub-par when compared with the film. Some of the additional moments are imaginative and interesting, but they seem unnecessarily over-the-top and just don’t add much to an otherwise outstanding production.
It’s moments like these that remind us that this isn’t the original Mary Poppins, and it isn’t quite up to the same standard. But it’s close enough to offer a spectacular evening of entertainment; the kids will love it – and grown-ups will adore the nostalgia.
Photo: Johan Persson
Mary Poppins is at Prince Edward Theatre from 13th November until 3rd May 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.