Review: Mary Poppins (The Musical)

In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun, you find the fun and SNAP, the job’s a game.

While I wish I could apply this philosophy to every task I have to do in my journalistic life (hello, transcribing), it was unbelievably simple to apply when writing this review of Mary Poppins the Musical, because, well, the element of fun was the musical in question.

There I was, trying to be professional and objective, about to watch my other pop-cultural idol on the theatre stage, clutching the umbrella my sister had just spent $60 on in one hand and a choc-top in the other, when I realised it: I couldn’t possibly be objective about Mary.

I mean, I know all the songs and various parts of the movie by heart. I still watch it on DVD every now and again. I visit the Mary Poppins statue that was erected in Sydney’s Ashfield Park on occasion (and have even been photographed with it) and was thrilled when I purchased a house that was number 17 (the same number as the Banks home on Cherry Tree Lane). Moreover, I was known to my teachers as an unashamed Mary Poppins fan throughout my high school years.

Which is why I am divulging this to you as a sort of disclaimer, just to let you know that whatever I pick at in the course of this review is being picked at because I am an obsessed fan and not an objective critic, and therefore, it may not be of relevance to your own interpretation, or opinion, of the show.

With the terms now established, I can proceed to discuss my thoughts:

  • The set was utterly magnificent. On my way to the theatre I was wondering how they could incorporate the city of London, a roof and a home that’s near to that of Admiral Boom on one stage, and yet they achieved it with a carefully (and amazingly) crafted house (that opens up, and takes us into a nursery, living room, kitchen and roof) and some artsy backdrops.
  • The costumes were also true to the era, and didn’t take away from ensuring each character stood out in their own right.
  • In terms of characters, all the old favourites made appearances in various incarnations or other (for example, in the movie there was a cook and female maid, but in the stage adaptation there’s a female cook and male assistant/butler). There was Mrs Lark, and the Bird Lady and the Bank’s Chairman/Board, the Constable and of course, Bert.  Unfortunately, Mrs Lark’s dog was named Willoughby instead of Andrew, Admiral Boom was not firing off any cannonballs at the stroke of an hour, and Mrs Winifred Banks was not a suffragette, which means I missed out on hearing the suffragette song I love so much.
  • This tiny detail wasn’t the only thing amiss in terms of the differences between the play and the movie’s setting. We know from the music that the movie was set in 1910 (Mr Banks sings about the grandness of being an Englishman at the time), but the play was set in the Victorian era (and Queen Victoria died in 1901, King Edward was on the throne when the movie was set).
  • The music was all so amazing, which is kinda what you pay for when you watch a musical. Most of the songs were changed (except for the staples like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the Nanny Advertisement song), and there were a few new ones which got me all excited too.
  • The performances were top notch and a pleasure to watch. Choreography was amazing, accents were believable and the actors really portrayed their characters well, which gave us an opportunity to love them in person.
  • The storyline was a little different, which made the play seem a little long, but I guess it’s not really interesting if everything is 100% exactly the same as the movie, in which case the writers did well in varying it up but keeping similar themes and plot lines.

All in all, it was a pleasure to watch. Diehard fans and new viewers alike would be captivated by the set, the feel-good storyline, the lovable characters, the transportation into another era, and mostly, the interaction with one of the world’s most-loved nannies. Energetic and uplifting, it’s the practically perfect, totally magical, spoonful of sugar that would brighten up the medicine that has been any working week.

Aphrodite Rating: 4.5 Hearts.

Get Ready, Set, Chase:
Mary Poppins is screening at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre for a limited time. For Ticket Information, see here.

UPDATE: Thanks to one of my lovely readers, I was just informed that the stage adaptation was based on the book and not the movie. So I totally understand the differences now. Going out to buy the book.

Aphrodite is…snuggling up on colder days with some good reads

Like my top three recent releases (below). One fills in the puzzles where some very old friends are concerned, one is a lesson in history (and female power), and the third is all about best medicine from someone who’s been bringing laughs to millions of people throughout the world. Don’t prefer to snuggle? Take one to the park instead and soak up some sunshine while tuning out. Perfect weekend material.

1. Summer and the City, by Candace Bushnell ($24.99, Harper Collins): In this sequel to The Carrie Diaries, we find out how Carrie was transformed from a small-town girl into a girl about New York, and more importantly, how she met Samantha and Miranda. It’s a coming-of-age where one of our favourite characters is concerned, and brings with it some interesting relevations – like Samantha’s nickname for Carrie (country ‘sparrow’).

2. The Maid, by Kimberly Cutter ($29.99, Bloomsbury): If the Catholic girl is happy with a book written about an iconic Catholic girl turned warrior turned Saint, then we know it’s pretty true to life. Like all cynical people, I kept waiting for the defamation of Joan of Arc to come, but was pleasantly surprised that author (and widely published freelance writer) Kimberly Cutter stuck to what history tells us is the original tale of the teenage girl who heeded the voices of the saints (these days we would have just handed her some Xanax) to crown the dauphin of France, and free her country from war (and inevitable defeat). Unfortunately many of those who supported her, and whom she saved, like the Dauphin himself, turned against her, and she was treated very harshly by the Church she loved and served and ultimately executed. Kimberly Cutter’s first book is a phenomenal look at the life of a female warrior who stood her ground and lost her life for it. Love the way she keeps her real with glimpses into her normal teenage mind – relationships, insecurities, dreams.

3. Bossypants, by Tina Fey ($32.99, Sphere): If you don’t know Tina Fey then you’re a moron. If you do, and like zillions of other people reckon she is an Aphrodite of humour, then you’ll want to check out the biography that tells us how it all began, complete with pictures, written family portraits and the kind of sarcasm and self-deprecation that we all love best. One for nerds, girls, and wannabe bossy-ladies everywhere. And people who like to laugh out loud on peak-hour trains.

Kerri Sackville: When my husband does the dishes

Aphrodite is…knowing that you’re not the only dysfunctional family on the block.

I’ve only been married for five months. Now is the time for blissful mornings under the doona, being spoilt on my birthday and numerous I love yous sent via Twitter, Facebook or sms throughout the day. Except it’s not. In our house, it is the time for screeching argument matches about the grocery shopping or my inability to cook anything other than shoddy stir-fry, for birthday wishes that are muffled and inaudible because they’re made while he’s still in bed and I am getting ready for work, and criticisms about everything from my lack of devotion to my appearance (it’s not exactly Aphrodite) and his lack of devotion to anything other than his job and his video games. Still, we’re happy to talk about bringing numerous little people into the dysfunctional home, once we’ve settled down and made our lives more, erm, accomodating to teeny human lives.

Clearly, there’s no such thing about ‘settling’ into such things. It’s more about accepting them, if Kerri Sackville’s memoir When My Husband Does the Dishes ($32.95, Random House) is anything to go by. I know this because I have had it by my bedside for a week or so now, and my glimpses into someone else’s living room, bedroom and kitchen have allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief that I am not the only one who has not got home life down pat (or any other aspect of life for that matter). Not only am I breathing for a change, but I am laughing instead of worrying, and it’s all thanks to Sackville’s ability to take those crisis-worthy, or bitch-session-worthy moments and turn them into hilarious sentences that make you want to say, sorry M Stew (Martha Stewart) but, no, I will never be like you. And maybe, nor do I want to be. Because even though I cry and sook and bemoan my existence, sometimes it’s actually an immense source of fun.

Sometimes, it’s nice to go beyond the bullshit that perpetuates status anxiety. Not everyone’s life is perfect and not every woman is a stepford mum (who has time for a career, no less) with a doting husband by her side and clean child geniuses to call her offspring.

If you want to laugh at the situations that stem out of the banalities of human life, or if you want to feel better about your insecurities, then this memoir is for you. Sackville, a freelance writer, Mama Mia contributor and short-listed Australasian Blogger of the Year for 2010, has done a marvellous job weaving together observations and reflections about weight loss and body image, sex, motherhood, marriage, friendship and grief in a highly relatable manner.

A must read for all women, mothers or not, it’s partly about guiding you through life, and partly about sharing experience, mistakes and frustrations in a highly personal way that’s not over-the-top and actually believable. Think of it as your new bestie, therapist and diary in one, and you’ll love it the way I did.

Aphrodite Factor: 4 hearts.

Sweet Valley Confidential: The Aphrodite in catching up with old friends, and new gossip

Sweet Valley. Two words depicting a destination in Southern California where we all played as kids, where we did assignments at friends’ houses after school while discussing prom dresses and boyfriend dramas, where we went to College at SVU and learnt that there are some things that we can’t escape. Like the love of a series that made us think we did all those things, even though in reality we didn’t. All because we lived vicariously through two blonde, blue-eyed California girls named Elizabeth and Jessica.

And now they’re back. And Aphrodite Chasers everywhere are rushing to catch up on their latest gossip. But this time, things are very different in Sweet Valley, so much so that one of our favourite sisters doesn’t live there anymore – after an epic fall out with Jessica, Elizabeth’s moved away and gone to pursue her journalistic aspirations as far away from Sweet Valley as possible. In New York, no less. And Jessica has no hope of forgiveness, let alone a response to an answering machine message.

This is where Francince Pascal’s Sweet Valley Confidential picks up – 10 years after we last heard from the girls. Admittedly, the excitement surrounding the launch of the book, in my opinion, far outstripped the actual quality of the storyline. Much as I loved catching up with old buds, an Aphrodite that is pretty much incomparable with anything, I couldn’t help but think I would have loved the book a hell of a lot more had I felt the author did not go to so many lengths to change characters, their relationships, and such. It was almost as though she was going for the OMG factor in more than just the main plot, which was a bit frustrating to read, but admittedly, it is still something worth reading for that sense of closure where some our fave characters are concerned.

The blurb tells us that the tables have turned in Sweet Valley, that it is Jessica who’s longing for forgiveness and Elizabeth who is seeking revenge, and it couldn’t be truer, albeit Elizabeth’s quest for revenge falls short as the good twin has always lacked the passion behind the evil that her sister possessed. But either way, most of the characters that we loved growing up make an appearance, with surprising reactions sure to be had.

So tell us, have you read it? What are your thoughts?

Sweet Valley Confidential, published by Harper Collins, out in bookstores. $32.99.

Why go a-chasing?

Do you want love, beauty, and all things glorious to be a part of your day to day existence? Well, so do I. In fact, as I sit here writing my introductory post, I am overwhelmed by the sheer and utter boredom that consumes me, even if I have a hundred things to do and many more things to think about.

I’m a dreamy kind of girl. I love luxury, gifts and all things pretty. I swoon for things that are appealingly packaged or presented. Sweet-scented candles, a pretty coin purse, pink nighties with the Eiffel Tower all over them, full skirts with delicate floral patterns. Steaming cups of tea served in china tea cups, brightly-coloured macarons, Chanel bags and silk scarves. The feeling you get when you’re about to go in for a pedicure, walk into a hotel room for the very first time, or discover something new and exciting.

This is the Aphrodite chase. The quest for the joy that stems from all that is beautiful and lovely in a world that has traded beautiful for sexy and love for lust. This chase takes me to restaurants and take-away food shops, to high-end department stores and weekend markets, to dustbags containing Chanel bags and closets filled with t-shirts and old leather sandals. It takes me to beauty spas and to Priceline, to Melbourne or to New York, to social-page-worthy product launches or mellow movie nights with my little sister.

The chase consumes my everyday because without it, life is just a job we do and not the blessing we are supposed to make the most of. And I’m going to make the most of it by finding as much Aphrodite as I possibly can, because if there are two things in the job worth appreciating, they are the beauty we see all around us, and the love that makes that beauty worth our while.

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