“Did that just happen?” a mischievous Michael Banks (Fraser Goodreid) wonders to sister Jane (Dorothea Seierup) after their first outing to the park with Mary Poppins sees park statutes come to life. There are lots of similar moments in Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Mary Poppins. Cheeky young Michael has some of the best lines in what is a very funny and more modern take on the story of the mysterious and magical nanny who flies in to save the two naughty Banks children and their family, after their latest carer storms out.
The stage musical, based on the revered 1964 film, adapted from the beloved stories books of Australian-British writer P.L. Travers, is practically perfect from the moment the world’s favourite nanny takes a coat stand from her bag. The reimagined set design by Bob Crowley is imaginative. It is a very technical show, with complicated, but still swift, set transitions. Everything is full of colour and movement and impressive scale. Crowley’s costumes are similarly full of detail, down to the tear in a brought-to-life doll’s seam.
Stefanie Jones is sensational as the titular Mary, always poised in her stance, with hands clasped and feet turned out. Instantly recognisable as she is as the character, she still manages to put her own spin on things, especially in her wry delivery of some of her cuttingly witty lines. Her crisp vocals add sweet tones to her musical numbers. Jack Chambers makes for an engaging Bert. He brings a good natured larrikinism to the man of many professions, but primarily chimneysweep, while maintaining his devotion to Mary. And like his charm, his energy never wanes.
Lucy Maudner has a lovely voice as former actress, now loving but overwhelmed wife and mother Winifred Banks. Chelsea Plumley is fittingly pantomimic as Mr Banks’ terrifying childhood nanny Miss Andrews. Cherine Peck is a crowd favourite as the enigmatic Mrs Corry, proprietor of a magical pop up sweet shop that also sells words. It’s not all whimsy, however, with Patti Newton, appearing as the Bird Woman on the steps of St Pauls Cathedral who gently teaches the children something about giving.
Balance is at the core of this production’s success, which is both warmly nostalgic and filled with new interest. That is helped by the inclusion of additional songs from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The spectacle that comes to life on the Lyric Theatre stage is nothing short of remarkable, making for an unforgettable production that could easily be seen again and again.
With big production numbers like ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, the slapstick of its kitchen destruction scene and the poignancy of a mythological park statue missing his father, Mary Poppins offers something for everyone. While it may be a revival, this is Mary Poppins anew – a musical for the whole family, full of memorable moments of pure joy to activate imaginations.
Mary Poppins is playing at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC until 1st January, 2023.
For more of Meredith Walker’s writings on theatre, check out Blue Curtains Brisbane