Theatre review: Mary Poppins, Civic Theatre

By Janet McAllister

1 comment

New Mary Poppins is up there with the best.

Mary Poppins stars Rachel Wallace and Matt Lee in action.  Photo / Chris Gorman
Mary Poppins stars Rachel Wallace and Matt Lee in action. Photo / Chris Gorman

This Mary Poppins has a lot of expectations to fly up to. Prices are $55 to $145 with no concessions, and three generations of audience members will be comparing it to the classic 1964 Julie Andrews movie.

But the hit show hits its mark spit-spot - it's a stupendous, lavish supercalextravaganza. The first muted pastel and grey palette gives way to the life and rich colour of several fantasy pageant scenes.

A particular highlight is the coining of The Word (you know the one) which pushes the concept of the YMCA dance - one letter per action - to extremes undreamed of by the Village People.

The stage plot has a few more twists and turns than the film, some more successful than others.

Satisfyingly, although Mr Banks desires to be a different kind of upwardly mobile to Mary Poppins, he is a sympathetic character, surprisingly open to her suggestions.

The villain becomes a witchy governess (a show-stealing Natalie Gamsu), whose brimstone and treacle bring her into a delicious, magical nanny showdown with our superheroine and her spoonful of sugar.

But some new songs - Practically Perfect and Playing the Game - are in slight danger of turning Mary Poppins' self-satisfaction into a harsher, priggish self-righteousness.

And although Pippa Grandison belts out her solo beautifully, Mrs Banks' character is a disappointing throwback - a wife whose one and only wish is to please her man.

Still, American Rachel Wallace as Mary heads the excellent Australian cast with poise and polish, and Matt Lee leads us cheerily through as chimney sweep Bert.

Running at around 2h 45m, it's a little long for a school night, but feels as fast as a ride on the wind. Superb.

What: Mary Poppins
Where: Civic Theatre, Auckland
When: Until December 16

- NZ Herald

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