Magical Mary Poppins perfectly timed for festive season

London's West End production of MARY POPPINS was still fresh in my mind when I attended the opening night of Abbey Musical Theatre's MARY POPPINS on Thursday.

How did it compare? Was it as good? Deep breath now. Yes, it was. In fact it's outstanding and maintains the quality shows the theatre group has presented all year.

MARY POPPINS is the musical you want to see before Christmas when Bert, not Santa, comes down your chimney. Director, Phil Anstis, has unleashed a show full of vibrancy, joy and colour. His is an assured production, directed with love for the original.

Mary Poppins (Val Andrew) enters the dysfunctional Banks family and it's never the same. She sorts out the kids more quickly than Maria did with the Von Trapps. But then she has magic in her fingers and a Lamborghini in her larynx that Julie Andrews would love to repossess.

If there's a star it's chimney sweep Bert (Tyrell Beck). He's the glue that holds the show together. He's loveable, flamboyant and dances with the athleticism of a young Gene Kelly.

He's supported by a coterie of charismatic characters. Mrs Brill (Andrea Maxwell) has robust comic timing George Banks (Richard Brown) transitions from uptight banker to family man and Renee Evans' solo, Being Mrs Banks, has drama, pathos and Barbra Streisand's belt.

The children are assured and the ensemble sings, dances and changes costumes more frequently than a chameleon on crack. Jessie Feyen (Miss Andrew) almost steals the show but not quite. There are too many other stunning performances.

It's not entirely perfect. The backing tracks are intrusive and assail the ears, and the second act needs tightening. But sound balance, precision and clearer dialogue will come as the show settles.

The singing is impressive, the choreography is creative and, when Mary leaves the show and floats away on a high, so does the audience.

MARY POPPINS has Mary-mania.


(Malcolm Hopwood)