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.

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