Sunday, March 15, 2015

MARY POPPINS



Book by Julian Fellowes
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 Stephen Colyer
Free Rain Theatre production
Canberra Theatre 14 – 29 March, 2015

Review by Len Power 14 March 2015

There’s a new song written for the stage version of ‘Mary Poppins’ called ‘Practically Perfect’.  I can’t think of a better description to describe Free Rain’s production currently playing at the Canberra Theatre.

Based on the stories by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney movie, the new stage musical of ‘Mary Poppins’ opened in London in 2004 and played with great success internationally, including Australia in 2010.  It’s not a straight adaptation of the movie to the stage.  Incidents from the books not included in the movie have been added and new songs have been written to complement the beloved songs from the movie.  It’s been so superbly constructed that it can’t really be compared to the movie.

Director, Stephen Colyer, has produced a stylish, energetic and colourful show with a brilliant cast.  Alinta Chidzey commands the stage as Mary Poppins in a wonderfully appealing performance, singing and dancing beautifully.  Shaun Rennie as Bert, the chimney sweep, gives a warm, athletic performance and is in great voice also.  Colin Milner as the father, George Banks, movingly plays and sings the suppressed emotions of the role and Christine Wallace as Mrs Banks is charming and in fine voice.  Bronwyn Sullivan, unrecognizable as the Birdwoman, sings ‘Feed The Birds’ with great feeling.  She is also a delightfully frightening Miss Andrews, the nanny from hell, and Anita Davenport displays great comic timing as Mrs Brill, the cook.  The roles of the children, Jane and Michael Banks, are alternating during the season.  The children on opening night played their large roles perfectly.  The large supporting cast provide excellent cameo performances.  In particular, Brian Daley was very funny as the elderly Bank Chairman, Steve Galinec had a wonderful moment as the park keeper rediscovering his childhood with a kite and Alicia Da Costa as Mrs Corry, the magic sweet shop owner, shines in the ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ number.

Choreographer, Jacquelyn Richards, has given us clever, imaginative, amusing and polished dancing of a very high standard.  The substantial set, designed by Gez Xavier Mansfield, and constructed by Greg Murphy Scenery, whizzes in and out and up and down, creating a magic of its own.  It’s complemented with the fine lighting of Phil Goodwin.  Sound design by Doc Shackleton also works very well with sound balances just right between performers and orchestra.  Musical direction by Ian McLean is excellent and played very well by the large orchestra.  Costumes by Fiona Leach are colourful, stylish and nicely in period.

Apart from the professional leads and director, it’s hard to believe this is essentially a non-professional show.  It really is as good as anything you’ll see on the professional stage and will appeal to adults and children alike.  Whatever you do, don’t miss it!

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 15 March 2015 from 5pm.

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