Mary Poppins | Australian Arts Review

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My first encounter with this production of Mary Poppins in 2011 is only a treasured memory in part because it gave me the opportunity to meet and interview the musical’s co-creator, Cameron Mackintosh.

James Powell was commissioned to adapt Richard Eyre’s original direction for the Australian production which starred Verity Hunt-Ballard as Mary Poppins and Matt Lee as Bert, backed by an all-star cast including Phillip Quast , Marina Prior and Judi Connelli. I remember it as a happy production.

In 2015, I saw another production of Mary Poppins. This time an excellent pro-am production from the Free Rain Theater at the Canberra Theater for which the director, Stephen Colyer, lacking the bells and whistles of a full professional production, still managed to capture the inherent joy of the musical , with a talented cast in Alinta Chidzey, who currently stars as Satine in red Millwas a delicious Mary Poppins in addition to Shaun Rennie’s deliciously cheeky Bert.

So what Mary Poppins have to offer to the public in 2022? Well, quite a considerable amount, it turns out.

Again, James Powell leads the Australian production, and rather than simply replicate his highly successful 2011 production, he has taken advantage of advances in theatrical technology to gild the lily with even more impressive theatrical magic guaranteed to dropping the jaws of even the most cynical theatergoer.

But it’s not just the theatrical effects that make this production memorable. Stefanie Jones is a very spitting Mary Poppins, who arrives uninvited and immediately sets up as the nanny of the Banks children, Jane and Michael. In this performance, Jane and Michael Banks were delightfully played by 11-year-old Mia Honeysett and 12-year-old scene stealer Ben Stabile.

Jones with her crystal clear singing voice and commanding stage presence is a perfect casting for Mary Poppins. She declares her credentials in Virtually perfect and A spoonful of sugar and takes its loads on a happy holidaysencourages the kite and confidently leads the whole company through the frenetic staging of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

However, during this performance, she tended to aim her performance above the heads of the audience and had very little eye contact with other cast members, so her Mary often appeared conceited and self-centered. It might be deliberate and in line with PLTravers’ descriptions of Mary, but hopefully a little more warmth might find its way into her characterization as her performance matures.

Jack Chambers as Bert, on the other hand, was the epitome of charm, a brilliant dancer and utterly captivating in happy holidays and especially when performing a backwards dance routine around the theater proscenium.

At this performance, the roles of George and Winifred Banks were played by stunt doubles, Stephen Anderson and Genevieve Kingsford. The two, of course, took a little while to settle in, but grew in confidence as the performance progressed, found their level and delivered charming renditions of Being Mrs. Banks of Kingsford and A man has dreams of Anderson.

Hannah Waterman as the long-suffering, talking housekeeper, Mrs. Brill, and Gareth Isaac as her mobster, butler, Robertson Ay delivered polished comedic performances. The audience roared with delight as Chelsea Plumley, unrecognizable as the formidable Miss Andrew, received her bounty from Mary, while veteran Robert Grubb clearly enjoyed her multi-cast as Admiral Boom and President of the Bank.

Almost stealing the show and definitely proving the old adage that there are no small roles, stage legend Nancye Hayes, luxury casting as the bird lady, had plenty of people reaching for their tissues with his touching performance of Feed the birds.

Magical production numbers performed by dancing statues, colorful costumes in lollipop shops, wonderful pop-up storybook houses to live in, glittering chimney sweeps dancing across rooftops on a starry night in London, and even Mary Poppins herself flying in the theater right above your head, Mary Poppins he has got everything.

It’s the kind of show that makes you want to rush out and bring all the kids in the neighborhood together to experience the joy and wonder of live theater. That’s what Mary Poppins proposed in 2022.


Mary Poppins
Lyric Theater of Sydney, 55 Pirrama Road, Ultimo (Sydney)
Representation: Wednesday August 3, 2022
The season continues until October 9, 2022
Reservations: www.ticketmaster.com.au

Lyric Theater – QPAC, Cultural Precinct, Southbank (Brisbane)
Season starts October 22, 2022
Reservations: www.qpac.com.au

For more information visit: www.marypoppinsmusical.com.au for details.

Image: Jack Chambers as Bert in the Australian production of Mary Poppins – photo – by Daniel Boud

Exam: Bill Stephens OAM

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