Review Roundup: MARY POPPINS Opens in London
Cameron Mackintosh and Disney Theatrical Productions' production of Mary Poppins has now returned to its original West End home at the Prince Edward Theatre, marking the first time this new production has been seen in London.
The magical story of the world's favourite Nanny arriving on Cherry Tree Lane has been triumphantly and spectacularly brought to the stage with dazzling choreography, incredible effects and unforgettable songs. The stage version of Mary Poppins, brilliantly adapted from the wonderful stories by PL Travers and the original beloved Walt Disney film, continues to be a smash hit around the world since its opening in London 15 years ago.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Mert Dilek, BroadwayWorld: Zizi Strallen delivers a delicately controlled, tight performance as Mary Poppins, who grows ever more elusive and enchanting. As the chimney sweep Bert, Charlie Stemp is a flurry of heart-warming energy, while Fred Wilcox and Nuala Peberdy are remarkable as Michael and Jane. Petula Clark's Bird Woman and Claire Moore's Miss Andrew provide admirably colourful support to the main parts.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: The ecstasy, which is the hallmark of a good musical and which I initially found in short supply, is now present in at least three of the numbers. In A Spoonful of Sugar, thanks to the illusions of Paul Kieve and Jim Steinmeyer, a partially destroyed kitchen is restored to pristine order. The polysyllabic song that starts with "super ..." also becomes a word-spinning Cockney bacchanal. Best of all is Step in Time, where London's chimney sweeps enjoy a night on the tiles led by the amiable Bert. The high point of the show, quite literally, comes when Bert tap dances horizontally on the walls of the proscenium and then upside down on its arch. It says a lot for Charlie Stemp that he retains a boyish cheerfulness even when dancing, Astaire-like, on the ceiling.
Dominnic Cavendish, The Telegraph: The oldest Banks child is referring to the dreadful imposition of the gorgon governess of her father's (damaged) youth, Miss Andrew. But she could speak for all of us, looking back on the testing interval since the belated theatrical incarnation of PL Travers's stories (cannily using classic songs from the 1964 Disney film but not solely beholden to them) was last seen in the West End.
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard: Bob Crowley's doll's house set is superb though, and the ensemble powers seamlessly through the set pieces. Strallen and Stemp dance and harmonise beautifully and make their platonic romance entirely credible. This feel-good extravaganza defies both logic and pessimism. Maybe that's what we need right now.
Clive Davis, The Times: What more could you ask for? At the risk of sounding as curmudgeonly as Mr Banks the banker, the balance sheet doesn't quite add up. You can see where all the money has gone in Cameron Mackintosh's handsome show, which was first staged in the West End 15 years ago. Bob Crowley's Edwardian set designs are stylish. The choreography - the work of Sir Matthew Bourne (who also co-directs) and Stephen Mear - is never short of energy.
Thea Jacobs, The Sun: Mary doesn't stop at just redecorating - she brings the Bank family together while delivering medicine with a spoonful of sugar. At the end you even get to see her fly over the audience in a truly magical finale. In the crowd two seats down from me is Ab Fab's Joanna Lumley who led a standing ovation. She told me: "I think this is a sensational show, brilliant dancing and singing. Engaging, charming professional. A heart stopper."
Alice Saville, TimeOut London: Writer Julian Fellowes ('Downton Abbey') is clearly in familiar territory here, and his script delivers on period-drama archness, even if it takes a while to warm up. The story is a hodgepodge of the movie, PL Travers's original books and a few ideas of Fellowes's own: he shifts the setting back a few decades to Queen Victoria's heyday, and makes Mrs Banks a frustrated former actress instead of a militant suffragette. The effect is jarring at first, especially if you're a fan of the movie: many of its most memorable scenes get scrapped, like the bit where Poppins summons up a hurricane to whisk away rival nannies, or the bit with the dancing penguins and carousel horses, or the 'I Love to Laugh' tea party where everyone ends up giggling on the ceiling.
Tom Bano, The Stage: George Stiles and Anthony Drewe have provided new songs that fill long, forgettable stretches alongside The Sherman Brothers' iconic original compositions, tunes etched in the cultural consciousness. Stiles and Drewe's music is frustratingly bland, the lyrics worse, with every tedious couplet in service of the rhyme, rather than story, sentiment or character.
Chris Omaweng, LondonTheatre1: I started by mentioning the children who play Jane and Michael Banks - their roles are demanding, and they delivered nuanced and appealing performances throughout. The production does not merely attempt to plonk the movie on stage: while there are some scenes lifted from the original script, there are others that are markedly different. The fusion between 'old' and 'new' is a snug fit, and this enthusiastic, impressive and breathtaking production must be seen to be believed.
Kay Johal, London Theatre Direct: The brolly-clutching, super-nanny-of-dreams has flown into London's Prince Edward Theatre. The classic tale of the Banks family and their encounter with Mary Poppins is brought to life with all the colour, magic, and joy we would expect. Zizi Strallen in the titular role excels, it is not easy to play a role made so famous by the sensational Julie Andrews. Strallen makes the role her own, perfectly portraying the poised, strong, no-nonsense character we know and love. It certainly is not a copycat performance yet there were still welcome hints of the Julie Andrews performance in her delivery, which ignites a spark of childish glee.
Mike C, Londonist: Fresh, colourful, fun and sentimental, this Poppins is everything you want musical theatre to be - and this is no pie-crust promise. It's worth putting it at the top of your Christmas shows-to-see list.
Claire Allfree, Metro: Considering Matthew Bourne is in charge of choreography, the dance sequences are decidedly average apart from Step In Time - an exhilarating percussive pummel featuring tap-dancing chimney sweeps and a proscenium arch-scaling, upside-down Bert (the excellent Charlie Stemp). And Amy Griffiths's Mrs Banks is a bit of a drip compared to Glynis Johns' spirited suffragette in the film.
Photo Credit: Johan Persson