I didn’t know what to expect about Mary Poppins. With the reputation built of being spectacular and so many friends lauding praise, I wondered if the show would live up to the hype.

One of my reservations came from listening to the 2005 Original London Cast Recording CD release which although full of many of the well known Sherman tunes from the 1964 film, still fell flat in my opinion. However, a live performance is a different matter so I was interested to see if a little theatre magic would explode from the stage. It stood a chance having being devised by Cameron Mackintosh, a producer whose shows have never let me down.

Mary Poppins – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 April 2016

I needn’t have worried. From the opening number I witness to over two hours of dynamic energy from a wonderful cast. Also, possibly the best set I have ever seen including a house on Cherry Tree Lane which unfolded before your eyes.

There seemed to be so much going on, you dared not switch attention for a second. During Jolly Holiday, the lighting altered on the backdrops so many times in a myriad of colours, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d changed the entire set mid song.

Yes, the old favourites were there: A Spoonful of Sugar, Feed the Birds, Let’s Go Fly a Kite and Chim Chim Cher-re. In addition to these, you also had the bigger song and dance numbers, particularly Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the immense Step in Time. Rather Bert than me climbing the side of the stage before walking upside down from a great height as he went over the rooftops. Also, the newer live numbers came across better than the recording I’d heard, In particular, Practically Perfect and Anything Can Happen.

I was informed on arrival that the part of Mary Poppins would that night be played by an understudy. However, there was no disappointment. Jennifer Davison delivered with such power you’d be hard pressed to think she hadn’t been doing it for the entire run. Also supporting was Matt Lee as Bert, Milo Twomey as George Banks and Rebecca Lock as his wife, Winifred. Jane and Michael were played with enthusiasm in this performance by Madeline Banbury and Regan Garcia.

My only two criticisms would be that one, I thought some of Julian Fellows’ scripted dialogue was a little laborious at times. However, that wasn’t a fault of the production and with everything happening in front of you, it was forgotten most of the time. The other was that the vocal amplification appeared weak to start with. Whether this was rectified or I just got used to it is unknown. It wasn’t an issue later on.

All in all, a wonderful experience right until the end where the magical nanny flies above the audience, disappearing into the sky (or rather an exit in the theatre ceiling).

So did I enjoy after my original uncertainty? Absolutely. In fact, I would go as far as to say it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Mary Poppins – Birmingham Hippodrome – 11 April 2016

Cheers.

Nick

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