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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Mary Poppins
Prince Edward Theatre   2019 -

Just in time for the holidays, and clearly intended to remain through several Festive Seasons to come, this is family entertainment and the proverbial Good Night Out of the highest order.

Any criticisms – and I will undoubtedly get to some – are merely cavils, as the forces, dedications to quality and financial resources of Cameron Mackintosh and the Disney Company combine as successfully as you could wish.

Based as much on the 1964 Disney film as the original stories of P. L. Travers, Julian Fellowes's book has the magical nanny take the unhappy and rebellious Banks children on some adventures (which really amount to little more than days out in the park) that cheer them up and help them get through temporary financial and emotional problems at home.

This is essentially a revival of the musical that ran at this same theatre from 2004 to 2008. But director Richard Eyre and choreographer Matthew Bourne have not just recreated the original. Every musical number has been restaged, and if not always for the better, the results are nonetheless lively, inventive and entertaining.

The new songs written for the 2004 version by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe now blend so smoothly with the Sherman Brothers' originals that you can't see the seams, and Practically Perfect and Anything Can Happen sound so right that you'd swear they were in the film.

Zizi Strallen, of the every-West-End-musical-must-have-one Strallen clan, makes a particularly perky and slyly witty Mary, while Charlie Stemp ably and energetically carries much of the dancing burden as Bert.

Petula Clark gets featured billing for the tiniest of cameo appearances as the Bird Woman, while Amy Griffiths brings sprightly warmth to Mrs. Banks.

For those who saw the 2004 version, a few comparisons. Strallen, Stemp and Griffiths are significantly superior to their predecessors, though Joseph Millson as Mr. Banks lacks the warmth and depth of David Haig's characterisation fifteen years ago.

Also in the area of comparison the restagings of all the big musical numbers are a mixed bag. I found Jolly Holiday cluttered and Playing The Game overblown.

Supercalifrag-et-cetera has lost its YMCA-style spelling-out in favour of more general and fluid arm choreography, which works just as well.

The new version of Step In Time is just as exciting an old-fashioned Broadway-style show-stopper as was the original – and Bert does still get to dazzle and delight us by dancing his way up one side of the stage, across the top and back down the other side.

Oh, and this time Mary does get to slide up the bannister, as well as flying in and out as magically as anyone could wish.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Mary Poppins - Prince Edward Theatre 2019