Theatre review: Mary Poppins (5 stars)

Stage version of the classic film proves practically perfect in every way

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Review – Mary Poppins

To call Mary Poppins a musical is almost doing it a disservice. When the curtain falls on two and a half hours (plus interval) of non-stop live music, dancing, singing, emotional storytelling, incredible stunts and lavish staging, it feels more like an ‘event’, and one which you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.

In a way, it’s hardly surprising. Not only does the show stem from a strong source – PL Travers’ novel and the Walt Disney film – but the creative team assembled to transfer it to the stage knows a thing or two about pleasing a crowd.

So, rather than your average musical theatre dance routines, we have choreography by Britain’s most popular dance maker, Matthew Bourne. Not only that, but the dancers recruited to perform said choreography have clearly had some serious training.

Which brings us to Zizi Strallen, a shining star in the lead role, and a former member of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company. From the moment she arrives, all turned out feet and glowing smile, Strallen is Mary.

Whether she’s imparting some kind but fair discipline to Jane and Michael Banks, politely but firmly handling Mr and Mrs Banks or kicking up her heels in a dance routine, Strallen personifies everybody’s favourite nanny. She’s also incredibly brave and clearly has a head for heights, but you’ll have to see the show to find out why.

Elsewhere, the brightly coloured set keeps morphing into something new, from the Banks’ kitchen to a park in bloom, an austere bank to soot-covered chimney tops where a stage-full of hoofers tap dance their way into our hearts.

By the closing number, we’ve been swept up in the beauty of 'Jolly Holiday', marvelled at the fiendishly tricky unison for 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious', and clapped along jubilantly to 'A Spoonful of Sugar' (I’ve never seen an audience so happily animated).

As we all know, Mary Poppins only stays for as long as she’s needed, so find your way to the Festival Theatre before she flies off to entertain another family elsewhere.

Edinburgh Festival Theatre until Sat 21 May; then on UK tour.

Mary Poppins

The magical story of the world’s favourite Nanny featuring the songs 'Step in Time', 'Jolly Holiday' and 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious'.

Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne

Sat 1 Oct

£22.50 / 0844 811 2121

Mon 3 Oct

£22.50 / 0844 811 2121

Tue 4 Oct

£22.50 / 0844 811 2121

…and 22 more dates until 29 Oct

Wales Millennium Centre / Canolfan Mileniwm Cymru, Cardiff

Wed 14 Dec

£22.50–£57.50 / 029 2063 6464

Thu 15 Dec

£22.50–£57.50 / 029 2063 6464

Fri 16 Dec

£22.50–£57.50 / 029 2063 6464

…and 24 more dates until 14 Jan 2017

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