Thursday, 29 July 2010

Mary Poppins *****

 Mary Poppins 
Her Majesty’s Theatre, (Opening night-Thurs July 29, 2010)
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars:***** (Yes, 5)

 (This review was unpublished in the Herald Sun after opening night but these are some thoughts on this exceptional production)

A new star is born in the musical theatre firmament. Verity Hunt-Ballard is Practically Perfect, as she sings, in every way for the role. She is what is known as “the triple threat”: sings, dances and acts. 

Her soprano is bright and crystal-clear, her character is a perfect blend of prim and mischievous, pert and bossy. Her comic timing is impeccable in both physical and verbal gags, she dances up a storm, maintaining Mary’s poise and cheekiness as she performs complicated routines.

Mary Poppins comes to life and even the creatives and producers of this production state categorically that not only is she the best Poppins they’ve seen, but this is the best cast in the six year history of the stage show.

This Poppins is the super-nanny who, with a spoonful of sugar, a snap of her fingers and a “spit, spot, spick and span” makes the kitchen tidy and the toys tuck themselves away.

The magic of the movie is present but it is even more spectacular because we see it immediately before us. Crowley’s set design is transformational, transporting us from the proper and staid domestic home of the Banks into Bert’s pastel painting of a technicolour park as it comes to life with ballet dancing statues. 

Mrs. Corry Conversation Shop is populated with eccentric characters is exceptional costumes who perform with Mary and Bert the supercalifagilistic dance routine and song.

Philip Quast as Mr Banks is commanding and accomplished with a fine resonant voice and a suitable thawing of his icy demeanour. Marina Prior captures our sympathy with Mrs Banks, the former actress who craves more time with her family. 

As the children, Jane and Michael, Hayley Edwards and Kurtis Papadinis were natural, playful and without that glossy artificiality of stage children.

Sally-Anne Upton funny, bold and booming as Mrs Brill and Judi Connelli’s bullying nanny Andrew is a treat. Rickerby awkward and hilarious in the slaptick kitchen scene.

Matt Lee is perky and charming as cockney Bert and stuns us with his dancing on the ceiling while Debra Byrne is poignant and in fine voice in her cameo as the Bird Woman.

This is a stunningly polished and wildly entertaining production that beats all other international productions to date - and that's according to the show's creative team themselves.

By Kate Herbert

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