Mary Poppins – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Mary Poppins – Review
Bradford Alhambra, November 2016
by Sandra Callard
Epic musical producer, Cameron Mackintosh, has done it again with his new version of the evergreen Mary Poppins, now on its UK national tour and currently at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford.
The new Mary Poppins does not have a star studded cast, but it does have an entirely capable and extremely talented set of actors, singers and dancers. It is set against one of the best back drops, lighting and stage settings I have seen in a long time.
Zizi Strallen is a stunning Mary Poppins, and brings the celluloid Mary to dazzling life. She has a lovely soprano voice which is as sharp as a bell. Her sidekick, Bert, played by Matt Lee, is a vast improvement on the original Dick Van Dyke,. He has a warm personality that totally complements Strallen’s discipline and ‘spit-spot’ demeanour. His voice varies from soft to grandiose, and is good for either. I thoroughly enjoy his performance.
“Totally new and dynamic”
Strallen and company sing the hit song of the show, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ in a totally new and dynamic way, and it is breathtaking in its precision and originality. I loved the number in the original film, but this is totally different and cleverer by far. Quite deservedly, it brought the house down.
There are some quite long, slightly involved, scenes where I sensed that quite a number of the many children present were growing restless. The scene in the bank where Mr Banks works, and the marriage difficulties of Mr and Mrs Banks went completely over their heads, and caused a bit of a lull. However, both children and adults were moved by the sadness and poverty of the Bird Woman as she begs passers-by to ‘Feed the Birds’. It is a beautiful song and is sung to perfection by Grainne Renihan.
The songs of Mary Poppins are so famous that many of them are now classics. And as if the repertoire from the original is not enough, this production packs in about seven extra songs. ‘Cherry Tree Lane’, ‘Practically Perfect’ and ‘Playing the Game’ to name but three. They are not in the same league as, ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’, ‘’Supercal’ or ‘Feed the Birds’, and it seems a bit like overkill to try and improve on what is already so good. ‘Playing the Game’ is particularly strange and the show would be better without it.
“Sumptuous and creative costumes”
The dancing is superb, and I was not surprised to see that the admirable Matthew Bourne has choreographed the show. When his name appears you know the dancing will have that touch of genius and pure class. The dance with the sweeps to the song ‘Step in Time’ is indicative of this, and is sheer perfection.
Where this production excels is in the eye-opening kaleidoscope of riotous colour. Then there is the sumptuous and creative costumes and the amazingly ingenious sets. They slide into position so unobtrusively you are somewhat in surprise to see them there.
This is a cracking show. It’s crafted by time-served artistes, musicians and dancers, and directed and produced by some of the most illustrious names in show business.
It would be a sad day if they can not come up with the goods. But they do. And, yes, Mary Poppins can fly!
Photos: Johan Persson