Playhouse, Edinburgh, until Sat 6 Dec
This article is from 2008.
There are several factors that separate Mary Poppins from the average musical, but the main one is there are no weak links. No stars bussed in purely to put bums on seats, dragging down the standard with weak vocals. No second division set carved from the West End show and sent on tour. And no dancers who know their way around a set of jazz hands but little else.
In fact there’s nothing that stops this being, like the character herself, practically perfect in every way. Blending PL Travers’ original book with the Walt Disney film, Cameron Mackintosh’s intelligent production brings out the best in both. Gone are the two dimensional characters on celluloid, replaced by a family you can really care about. While those cracking Sherman brothers numbers have been re-imagined and added to seamlessly by songwriters George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
The directorial dream team of Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne also ensures that each dance routine takes the least obvious path. Bourne’s choreography is sharp and inventive, especially in Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, which takes YMCA-style arms and cranks up the speedometer, the joyful tap dancing of Step in Time and balletic statues which come alive in Jolly Holiday, all neatly folded up inside Bob Crowley’s charming, dolls house set.
Clever routines and fearless flying make Mary Poppins stand out from the crowd. But what really stays with you is the poignant story of a family who have fallen off the rails, and the Supernanny who gets them back on track.