Mary Poppins


Energy Events Centre



March 11-24

In the great world that's theatre, Rotorua's a very small provincial place 'down there somewhere'.

In the great world of theatrical productions, Mary Poppins is up there with the greats.

Would the show be too big for a place this size that dared stage it?

Realistically, tackling a show of its calibre was never going to be an easy ask of the Rotorua Musical Theatre but throw in the unexpected closure of the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre and the challenges become manifold.

The very thought of transferring it to the sports courts of the Energy Events Centre would have lesser companies pulling the plug. But Rotorua Musical Theatre types have more guts, they're the sort who live by that great "the show must go on" maxim.

Bless them for it.

Mary Poppins Energy Events Centre-style may not be the setting production dreams are made of (a note here to take a cushion if your seats are in the bleachers) but optimism that the move would be a successful transition has been rewarded with a show as good as it gets in circumstances so trying.

Welcome back Melissa Nicholson. Her starring role as the Nanny who makes everything better with a spoonful of sugar is exactly the morale-boosting impetus the relocated production needed. Having made her Rotorua mark playing the title role in Evita, she flies high as Mary Poppins.

Ryan Christensen is her chimney sweep buddie Bert; his vertical and horizontal wall climbing and hanging upside down abilities are worth a show of their own.

Playing the Banks children, Jane and Michael, at the performance this reviewer attended (four youngsters alternate), Trixie Hulme and Tate Tisdall are a talented duo who bode well for Rotorua Musical Theatre's future.

Their stage parents, the seasoned Rodney Conrad playing Nanny-adverse banker George Banks, with Kristen Pirie as his frazzled wife Winifred, are the production's on-stage lynchpins.

Director Dean McKerras, who's commuted from Palmerston North for the past three months to make this show happen, deserves a standing ovation.

The imported fold-out set and Technicolor costumes are stunning.

Tempting as it is to trot out the trite 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' to portray Mary Poppins Rotorua-style, 7-year-old Miss Stevie put it far better with her single word - "magnificent".

Hear hear to that.

- Jill Nicholas