Our Verdict: Absolutely outstanding in every possible way
Our Rating: 10/10
An exceptional show performed by an exceptional cast and created by exceptional designers. Not just practically perfect, but supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
In fact, it’s not often a show comes along where every facet is so perfect it’s difficult to convey with mere words.
It’s been eleven years since Mary Poppins premiered at The Bristol Hippodrome with Laura Michelle Kelly as the embodiment of Julie Andrews and Gavin Lee the perfect Bert.
Fast forwarding to 2015, the magical show produced by both Disney and Cameron Mackintosh, returns once again to the theatre.
It’s not a carbon copy of the original. It’s a fresher revival tightly directed by James Powell, with a cast putting their own mark on the famous story. But don’t worry, the characters still fly in all the right places and Matt Lee still dances over the rooftops and proscenium arch.
Apart from the visual and musical spectacle, what really brings this show alive is the fantastic and flawless casting.
The Banks family of Milo Twomey as George, Rebecca Lock as Winifred and in this performance Ruby McGivern and Colby Mulgrew as Jane and Michael really fleshed their charming characters out. They worked brilliantly together, showing us a chaotic yet endearing family that obviously loved each other very much.
In fact, Rebecca Lock had Moment of the Show for me with her stagger of horror when first happening upon the devastation the children had caused in the kitchen. For it was exactly the stagger of any parent who has entered a room to find a six foot high child’s drawing of a Dalek in the medium of Sharpie on white wall. Bitter Experience.
Though titled Mary Poppins and widely considered a children’s story, the show is all about the whole Banks family. Mary swoops in to save the grown-ups whose children’s bad behaviour is merely a symptom of their own parental failings.
The scenes are well paced and move much more fluidly with Bob Crowley’s slimmed down house rather than the original monolithic version which dominated proceedings.
Zizi Strallen as Poppins, was a musical theatre breath of fresh air. She retained the Disney and PL Travers qualities we associate with the character but without the constant po-face. Magical and no-nonsense, but with the cheekiness of youth and still the gravity of an old soul, this was a role she was clearly born to play.
Love him or hate him, there just won’t ever be another Dick Van Dyke. But Matt Lee gives us a great Bert and his own youthful yet worldly charm is perfectly matched to Zizi’s Poppins.
This really is a don’t blink show. Don’t blink because you will miss a whole range of magical special effects. From torn letters flying up chimneys, beds putting themselves together to toys coming alive from the dolls house. It was a shame gem of a song Temper Temper was replaced with more whimsical song Playing the Game. Disney is known for dealing with darker moments and Travers certainly provided them so it seemed a missed opportunity not to retain the creepier original.
The score remains much the same otherwise with full company numbers supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Step in Time and Anything Can Happen really geeing up the audience.
You would have heard a pin drop when Zizi finally sang the words ‘With every job when it’s complete there is a sense of bitter sweet,’ and audience members surreptitiously wiped away the odd tears in their eyes. Of course, she goes out on a complete high, literally, as she flies across the Hippodrome auditorium. It’s probably one of the most incredible effects and show endings you will ever see at the theatre.
I’ve recently been party to conversations with other parents discussing whether to see the show or not. Mostly this is down to the sheer expense of the tickets for the average family of four. My advice is the show is absolutely worth the money. Don’t hang around for tickets because they will go. However, if you have young children go to a matinee because it’s a late finish and young children will flake out before the end.
It’s been an absolute joy and a privilege to see this show in Bristol again. I loved it the first time it played in the city. Now I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it all over again with the added excitement of seeing it through my own children’s eyes. Cancel Christmas if you must, but don’t miss it before it flies off again.
Mary Poppins is at The Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 28 November