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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Mary Poppins (Her Majesty's Theatre) - 150 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval

In a word, Mary Poppins is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

The theatrics – the staging, set design and magic introduced into this Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production are sublime.

Photos by Daniel Boud

I speak of everything from the doll’s house that opens up to the Banks’ family home to the appearance of Poppins’ iconic large-scale brolly towards the end of the show.

You simply must see it to appreciate just how special those things are.

Of course, I have merely brushed the surface of what is on offer.

What everyone’s favourite nanny is able to pull from her colourful bag of tricks – both literally and metaphorically – is mesmerising.

A full-size hat stand is simply the starting point.

But there is far more sleight of hand that occurs in this show.

A brass bed opens and closes sans touch, a cup floats in mid-air, a mop does its business without human contact and there’s mayhem in the kitchen.

That’s not to overlook costuming brilliance that helps one believe that statues can actually come to life.

The many show-stopping numbers are choreographed to perfection and bring with them adulation from an appreciative audience.

And I would hope that even Fred Astaire would have been as impressed as I was when a surfeit of chimney sweeps (what is the collective noun for them?) take to the stage in a tap-dancing extravaganza.

The original music and lyrics in Mary Poppins by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman remain divine. I just adore songs like A Spoonful of Sugar, Let’s Go Fly a Kite and Chim Chim Cher-ee.

P.L. Travers’ timeless tale about the residents of 17 Cherry Tree Lane excites anew.

Photos by Daniel Boud

I speak about workaholic bank employee George Banks and his wife Winifred and their young children Jane and Michael.

That is not to overlook the hired help in the house.

Of course, George is far too busy to spend time with his kids, but Mary Poppins will ensure that he learns to rearrange his priorities.

Stephanie Jones is flawless as Mary Poppins. She has a beautiful voice, a no-nonsense approach and is warm and engaging throughout.

I loved her interaction, not just with the household and the children, but with the incomparable Marina Prior, who fills two pivotal roles with distinction.

She plays the bird woman selling seeds at tuppence a bag and George Banks’ former cruel, demanding and demonic nanny, Miss Andrew.

She is called back into service briefly for the next generation of Banks when Mary Poppins takes flight.

Jack Chambers is charming, particularly agile and light on his feet as artist and chimney sweep Bert, open in his affections for Mary.

Tom Wren readily channels stiffness and distance as George Banks, whose load is lifted as the narrative reaches its climax.

Lucy Maunder has golden pipes and a lilt in her step as George’s long suffering wife Winifred. She plays a dab hand in this production.

Four boys and four girls alternate the roles of the Banks’ children.

On opening night, it was 12-year-old Harriet Adler and Sebastian Sero, 10, who "played up" and delivered memorable lines with aplomb.

Hanna Waterman is a scene stealer as the cook Mrs Brill and Gareth Isaac revels in heightened characterisation of house boy Robertson Ay. His operatic turn is priceless.

Robert Grubb brings gravitas to the roles of the Banks’ neighbour Admiral Boom and the bank chair.

The moment she appears on stage, Cherine Peck makes an impact as the colourful Mrs Corry. She runs the Talking Shop, where people buy conversations and gingerbread.

Stephen Anderson eschews much humour as the park keeper. He doubles as businessman Northbrook, who approaches Mr Banks for a loan.

While I have seen and greatly appreciated the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, which won five Oscars, as well as previous stage musical versions, this production is unquestionably the most sophisticated yet.

It is a magnificent, polished, cross generational show, perfect for the whole family, which saw me teary eyed.

Please don’t miss out on getting your spoonful of sugar.

Mary Poppins is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre until 30th April, 2023.


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