Mary Poppins the Musical at the Adelaide Festival Centre – Review
It’s time to rediscover the undeniable magic of one of the world’s most-loved tales, and show new generations that anything can happen… if you let it!
Review by Carla Caruso
If you loved watching Mary Poppins on the telly as a kid, you can’t miss this magical stage adaptation.
Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘supercalifragilistic’ new production of Mary Poppins has made its official premiere at the Adelaide Festival Centre. And what a wonderfully whimsical ride it is.
From the moment the stage curtains go up, you are transported, truly, to the world created by Australian-British author PL Travers and that of the original film.
This is thanks to the star power of Stefanie Jones as ‘Poppins’, Jack Chambers as ‘Bert’, and Patti Newton as ‘the Bird Woman’ – plus the ‘practically perfect’ costuming, the beautifully illustrated stage backdrops, and the intricate set décor. The Banks family home even folds out like a larger-than-life dollhouse!
The story, of course, centres on the magical English nanny, Mary Poppins, who is blown by the east wind to number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London, to care for the Bankses’ mischievous children. It’s set in 1910. (The film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke came out in 1964.)
The children’s world opens up as Poppins introduces them to a number of curious characters – from statues that come to life to eccentric shopkeepers – and takes them on various adventures.
The magic you know and love from the film is on show from the get-go, with Poppins doing such things as pulling a hat stand out of her carpet bag and ‘righting’ crockery that’s been broken before your eyes. Later, you’ll see characters defying gravity in unbelievable ways. You’ll be dying to know the ‘secrets’ behind their tricks … how they do it and also sing, dance and act boggles the mind.
There are some things about the musical that are different to the film. For example, when Poppins uses her magic to transport the kids into one of her friend Bert’s street paintings, the group encounter a royal cavalcade on the other side rather than a horse race (a sign of the times?). And instead of going to a ‘tea party on the ceiling’, as in the movie, Mary and co visit a ‘talking shop’.
One thing that really stood out to me about the musical too is what has, and hasn’t, changed about society. The dad character – George Banks – is embarrassed by his wife Winifred’s past as an actress and tells her, “It’s your job [now] to be my wife.” He’s also keen for her to mingle with the right people to improve the family’s status – the kind of thing which still happens today.
In contrast, Poppins is seen hanging out with a diversity of characters, like ‘dirty chimney sweeps’, and conversing with animals. Watching the musical made me properly appreciate what a wonderfully drawn character she is. There’s no one else like her – parrot-head walking stick and all.
In the end, thanks to Poppins’ influence, Banks learns that “there are more important things in life than making money” and there’s value in spending time with his wife and kids.
During the musical, hearing classic tunes like A Spoonful of Sugar, Let’s Go Fly a Kite, and Feed the Birds are real pinch-yourself moments.
Jack Chambers is a standout performer as ‘Bert’. Also look out for TV performer Robert Grubb (Seachange, All Saints and more) as Admiral Boom and the chairman of the bank.
On for a limited season, catch this musical while you can (then rewatch the movie – with your kids)!
A few more thoughts from the Play & Go Team:
Mary Poppins is visually spectacular with a mind boggling bag of tricks that are as clever as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. You won’t believe your eyes as magic unfolds throughout the show. The clever sets are next level in their design and creativity, as you would expect with a Disney production.
Some stand out moments are the brilliant show stopping numbers ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and ‘Step in Time‘. The latter is an epic tap extravaganza with the energy and charm of a classic Fred Astaire number. The full ensemble are absolutely dazzling, in making the stage come alive with vibrant song and dance. Add the talented vocals and you have musical theatre brilliance. Other stage shows have lacked this dynamic choreography which Mary Poppins has brought to the table. It’s an energy which assures you are watching a big budget world class production.
One of the notable differences compared to the movie is Mrs Bank’s character. In the movie she was a trailblazing feminist, fighting for women’s right to vote, which meant spending time away from her children. In this version there is much focus on her being “just” a wife and mother with disparaging comments from her husband about her abilities. Mary Poppins thankfully provides the strong female character role. However in this day and age perhaps the movie version of Mrs Banks would have been more inspiring.
If you love musical theatre, the movie, book or songs, don’t dilly-dally, spit spot to see this delightful show. It’s a perfect Winter treat.
Is it suitable for young children?
The musical runs for two hours and 50 minutes, including an interval, which may test some youngsters. However, the theatrics and effects should do well to keep them on the edge of their seats. There is quite a lot of dialogue in between songs and they may not follow the storyline. While they may enjoy watching the movie at home, remember that in the theatre they don’t have the freedom they would have in front of a TV, to chat, sing, dance, eat noisy snacks, or roam around.
Be aware that one scene may be a little nightmarish for little ones with toys coming to life. This is one reason why it’s recommended for ages 7 and up.
For more information and all enquiries please visit the Adelaide Festival Centre website.
All photos by Carla Caruso for Play & Go Adelaide with additional media call photos by Mel
At Play & Go Adelaide we make every effort to provide accurate information to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. We recommend confirming times, dates and details directly before making any plans as details may be subject to change.
As per all our Play & Go reviews, this is not a sponsored post and our review is done completely independently. All photos are by Play & Go (unless specified).
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