Set Design: Gez Mansfield
Free-Rain Theatre Company
Canberra Theatre until March 29
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
You won’t need a spoonful of sugar to make this merry musical go down, it’s “practically perfect in every way”. Director Stephen Colyer has achieved a highly-polished, imaginative production which, with its black and white story-book setting, and stylish, colourful costumes, has all the bells and whistles, and keeps the magic coming until the very last notes.
Colyer has drawn exceptional performances from his cast, so that the audience soon become captivated by the familiar story of the mysterious super-nanny, and her chimney-sweep friend, who insinuate themselves into the lives of the Banks family with life-changing results.
Alinta Chidzey gives a Broadway quality performance as Mary Poppins. Her character has just the right level of astringency. She sings her songs superbly, and confidently leads the company through the big complicated dance numbers, even tossing off some neat conjuring tricks along the way. Just as impressive is Shaun Rennie as Bert. Rennie matches Chidzey’s flair with excellent singing and dancing, while heightening the air of magic and mystery which pervades the production.
|Alinta Chidzey (Mary Poppins) and Shaun Rennie (Bert) lead the cast|
Free Rain Theatre's production of "Mary Poppins"
Chidzey and Rennie are excellently supported by the strong local cast who rise to the occasion with well-judged character performances. Among them, Colin Milner, who finds an unexpected complexity in his curmudgeonly banker, George Banks, which makes his eventual redemption quite moving. Christine Wallace is also excellent as his ditzy wife, Winnifred, while Callum Doherty and Georgia Forster as their wayward children, Jane and Michael, perform their large roles with extraordinary aplomb.
Unrecognisable in two scene-stealing cameo roles, Bronwyn Sullivan uses her remarkable stage presence and lustrous voice to great effect as the bird woman and the fearsome Miss Andrew. Anita Davenport contributes fine comic performance as the housekeeper, Miss Brill, matched beautifully by Lachlan Agett as the remarkably flexible butler, Robertson Ay.
The tightly-drilled production numbers, choreographed by Jacquelyn Richards, are sensational, especially the brilliantly performed “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious “, the wonderful park scene with its dancing statues, and the marvellous “Step in Time” with its stage full of tap-dancing chimney sweeps, all performed with admirable style and panache, and buoyed on by Ian McLean’s classy orchestra.
Not even some missed sound cues and occasional clunky set changes on opening night could dent the professional gloss of this brilliantly conceived and executed production, with which Anne Somes and Free Rain Theatre have again raised the bar for local theatre.
This review first published in the digital edition of "City News" on 15th March 2015.
An edited version appears in the print edition published 18th March 2015.