Top Of The Poppins: Zizi Strallen Shines As Mary Poppins At Prince Edward Theatre
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Reviewing the new Mary Poppins stage musical may be a bit surplus to requirements. Let's face it — whatever the reviews say, it won’t matter a spit-spot, as tickets will sell and sell for months, if not years, on the strength of the much-loved Disney film.
But luckily for anyone lured in by the Disney magic, the show is a worthy one in its own right. Zizi Strallen steps confidently out of Julie Andrews’s shadow, with a knowing wink and a slide up the banister. She has all the sugary sweetness that we expect of everyone’s favourite nanny, with an added dash of lemon to prevent a diabetic coma.
The show is a little darker in tone than might be expected, with more emphasis on loss and neglect. There’s even a baddie in the shape of an evil nanny called Miss Andrew, played in panto-villain style by Claire Moore, who — spoiler alert — is swiftly dispatched by her nemesis with a very large spoonful of sugar indeed.
But relax, kiddies of all ages — all your favourite songs are here. Chim-Chim-Cher-Ee, Let’s Go Fly A Kite and of course Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious are given full rein and big budget staging. Even the rather so-so It's A Jolly Holiday With Mary gets a new lease of life thanks to eye-poppin’ Technicolor sets.
Visually, there are some stunning moments that stand in for the animated sequences of the film. The act-opening crowd scenes are beautifully worked; you can ooh as Bert steps out upside down on the proscenium; and aah as Mary takes her final flight up, up and away from the waving Banks family.
The children work hard — aren't there child labour laws, what with all these chimneys? Adelaide Barham and Gabriel Payne are superb as Jane and Michael Banks — charming, cheeky and exuberant without being, ironically, precocious.
Petula Clark’s cameo, oddly, strikes the only duff note. It's lovely to see her on stage, and her voice is strong as ever, but as the Bird Lady (“Tuppence a bag!”) she is under-used, and relegated to the third row in the closing chorus number, which seems a waste.
Fresh, colourful, fun and sentimental, this Poppins is everything you want musical theatre to be — and this is no pie-crust promise. It’s worth putting it at the top of your Christmas shows-to-see list
Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre, Old Compton Street, W1D 4HS. Tickets from £17.50, until May 2020.
Last Updated 13 November 2019