Wednesday, March 18, 2015

MARY POPPINS The Broadway Musical


Mary Poppins

Based on the story by P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney Film. Original Music andf Lyrics by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman. Book by Julian Fellowes. New songs and Additional Music by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Originally produced by Cameron Macintosh and Thomas Schumacher for Disney.Directed by Stephen Colyer. Design by Gez Mansfield. Musical Direction Ian Maclean, Choreography Jacquelyn Richards.  Costumes by Fiona Leach. Lighting Design by Phil Goodwin and Adrian Rytir. Sound Design by Doc Shackleton. Canberra Theatre. March 12-29 2015.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Shaun Rennie as Bert and Alinta Chidzey as Mary Poppins Photo by Craig Burgess

Utterly magical and practically perfect in every way. Following on from her resounding success with Phantom of the Opera in 2013, Free Rain Theatre producer, Anne Somes, has pulled another rabbit out of the hat with a stunning staging of Mary Poppins. The Disney version of PL Travers’ immortal tale about the flying Nanny, who arrives at the Banks’s home in Cherry Tree  Lane, is an uplifting and joyous celebration of all that is fine and noble in the human spirit. Julian Fellowe’s book and the catchy music and clever lyrics of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman transform P.L. Travers original story into a sparkling musical gem. But then, transformation is what this story is all about. Mary Poppins’ arrival is not coincidence. Nanny after nanny has been driven away by the troublesome behaviour of young Jane and Michael. Father, George has ignored his family under the burdensome responsibilities of his work at the bank, and wife Charlotte has forsaken her acting career to devote to her husband and children. Travers paints a picture of a family in crisis. Only a miracle, it would seem, could restore the proper family values and love. That miracle is Mary Poppins, with her magical tricks, moral virtues and transformative tactics.
Alinta Chidzey as Mary Poppins Photo by Craig Burgess
For any professional company, the challenge of staging a production of the Broadway version of Mary Poppins is difficult enough. For a local Canberra company, it is a gargantuan task, requiring a wonderfully imaginative director, an ingenious designer. a superbly talented cast, passionate musical direction and performance , lively and inventive choreography and a production team that doesn’t miss a trick. And, of course, a producer who can bring all these elements together to create a brilliant and unforgettable theatrical triumph.
Bronwyn Sullivan as Birdwoman. Alinta Chidzey as Mary Poppins
Jake Allen as Michael. Victoria Hunt as Jane. Photo by Craig BUrgess
Somes has wisely engaged a professional director, and in Stephen Colyer, she has discovered the ideal director to give her production flair and flavour. Designer Gez Mansfield has created a mobile illustrated story book set to represent the Banks home, and  the use of projections on to the side curtains provides the illusion of kites flying or money in the bank. Mansfield creates his own brand of magic on the large Canberra Theatre stage, which bursts into life under Colyer’s splendidly staged direction and Fiona Leach’s perfectly designed costumes for the period.  Somes has again invited Phantom musical director, Ian Maclean and choreographer, Jacquelyn Richards to work wonders with the orchestra and the dance routines from Mary and Bert’s waltz to the fabulous tap routine to Step in Time. Every member of this memorable production on stage and behind the scenes deserves a mention.
Alicia Da Costa asMrs. Corry. Jake Allen as Michael and Victoria Hunt as Jane.
Photo by Craig Burgess
It is said that 90% of successful direction is good casting and it is here that Colyer has given the production a Midas touch. Alinta Chidzey’s Mary Poppins is pure bewitchment.  Her first appearance on stage radiates charisma. In Fiona Leach’s long red cloak, black hat and classic umbrella with the parrot’s head, Chidzey is Mary Poppins. She is ideally matched with Shaun Rennie’squirky,mischievous, larrikin Bert. Whether singing. dancing or acting, neither misses a note, puts a foot wrong or skips a beat. This show would test the fittest of marathon runners and Chidzey and Rennie fly their kite to its highest height. In addition, Chidzey’s sleight of hand amazes and Rennie’s nimble feet even outshine Dick van Dyke’s slick steps.
Jane, Mary and Michael with the Chimney Sweeps
Photo by Craig Burgess
The Banks Family- Colin Milner, Jake Allen,Victoria Hunt, Christine Wallace
There are performance gems from Colin Milner as Mr. Banks and Christine Wallace as the long suffering Mrs. Banks, who shows her real mettle in the end. Milner’s difficult journey and transformation from grumpy workaholic to enlightened human being and loving father is perfectly paced, powerfully sung and played with absolute conviction. As Jane and Michael, Georgia Forster and Callum Doherty perform with natural ease. A little too much brass on   opening night tended to drown the vocals at the beginning of the show, and hopefully that can be swiftly rectified. Bronwyn Sullivan’s very different cameo roles of the forlorn Birdwoman and the harridan nanny Miss Andrew are triumphs and Sullivan lends captivating pathos to Feed The Birds and full-vented malice to Brimstone and Treacle
On the Canberra Theatre stage, this production explodes with vitality. Colyer maintains precision and order, but with much more than a spoonful of imagination,  inspiring his team to create a show that is nothing short of dazzling, enchanting, magical and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.By the time the word gets around, there won’t be a ticket to be had. And I’m not tricking!