The first musical I remember watching on the stage was Beauty and the Beast. I loved every minute of it; the costume changes, the sets, the lights, the music, and in particular, the way the entire production managed to draw you in, as if to embrace the entire audience as part of the show. A few years later, when I was about nine or ten, I saw the musical production of The Lion King, and came to the realisation that children could be professional musical actors, too. At that point, I decided to run away and join the theatre.
Except that it didn’t really work out for me. It turns out I’m not that great a performer; who knew? But musicals will always have a special place in my heart. After watching the stage production of Mary Poppins: The Musical at the Capitol Theatre the other night, I felt I was brought back into that world of wonderment and child-like delight.
I’ve never read the books, but I do remember watching the 1964 Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, and Mary Poppins: The Musical is basically a version of that, rendered for the stage…except about 1o times better. Because it’s one thing to see everybody laugh their way up to the ceiling on a screen, but quite another to see Bert the chimney-sweep actually walk up the wall and on the ceiling of the theatre right in front of you. For a minute you can imagine that the magic is real; that’s the beauty of live theatre: it’s all happening right there in front of you, characters come alive, and with Mary Poppins, the medium was allowed to take full effect.
The show was a riveting display of fabulous costumes, an element of the fantastical which I am sure was enjoyed by audiences young and old, and the singing and choreography were exceptional. If you’re familiar with the Disney film, you’ll recognise more than a few tunes in the musical, like ‘Chim Chimer-ee‘, ‘Step in Time‘, ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite‘, and of course, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious‘, but the musical included new songs that got stuck in my head long after the show ended, like ‘Practically Perfect‘ and ‘Brimstone & Treacle‘.
And the sets! Mary Poppins is set in dreary London, which is aptly conveyed right at the beginning of the musical, with ominous buildings silhouetted against a projected grey sky, complete with rolling clouds and the occasional bird flying through. But once Mary breaks the children out of the plaintive Number 17, Cherry Tree Lane and introduces them (and by proxy, the audience) to her own delightfully colourful world where statues dance and a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the sets change so drastically and yet so smoothly that I have to marvel at how well they did it.
All up, Mary Poppins was amazing, and definitely made for a fun night out.
Mary Poppins: The Musical
Where: Capitol Theatre, Sydney
When: Weds 1PM & 8PM; Thurs & Fri 8PM; Sat 2PM & 8PM; Sun 1PM & 6:30PM;
Price: $40 and up. Buy tickets here.