Review: Mary Poppins (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (14/06/2016)


Mary Poppins was a favourite of mine as a child, hence I was looking forward to see the musical on tour! After their recent award (Best Regional Production – What’s on Stage Award), my expectations had risen, but strangely they were not high. Mary Poppins is about the Banks family and a nanny they hire called, funnily enough, ‘Mary Poppins’. The family unit has become dysfunctional and it is up to Mary Poppins to show them what they are missing out on – not forgetting the many adventures she, Bert (her friend) and the children have throughout.

Mary Poppins (Zizi Strallen) was portrayed perfectly! Her sense of love and seriousness was clearly apparent and even when she was talking and singing, it just sounded right – even her walk seemed elegant as it should. The vocals were powerful! Bert (Matt Lee) was strange for me. Being a big fan of the film, I was comparing him to Dick Van Dyke. With the huge age difference, I found it odd, but he still put across a very warm and humorous character although at times it did feel as though he was trying too hard to be funny. Being a big name though, he certainly delivered! I must note his tap dance routine was amazing!

The children, Michael (Harvey Shoesmith-Dean) and Jane (Lucy Simmonds) Banks were phenomenal; I could not fault them! Their vocals and speech in general were very clear, whilst hitting all the notes. The dancing was great too! Mrs Banks (Rebecca Lock) and Mr Banks (Milo Twomey) had a slow first half (the script did not give them enough time to expand), but they both came to life in the second half! Mr Banks, though, was unable to convey the anger he shared at times. Mrs Banks personally was the back bone to the musical. Upon finding out she had played Mary Poppins in the past, it was evident her experience brought so much more to the show than just her role!

The evil Miss Andrew (Penelope Woodman) was spectacular! She was the first person ever to intimidate me at a theatre, by which other musical ‘bad guys’ had failed to do. Mary Poppins is of course well known for its songs. This is probably the only musical where I knew all the songs prior. Every single musical number lived up to its name. Perfectly executed! The pit band were exceptional. Sitting in balcony, for the first time I could them throughout the show! Seeing how hard they work, somehow managed to give me more respect for them than I already had!

The choreography was straight forward but affective (not implying it was easy or that I could do it!) in comparison to some of the other musicals I have seen. But then it was what the show needed! With some very clever prop designs (Bank’s house), it was a great visual aid and added a lot of life to the show. It was very impressive seeing Bert walk up to the stage ceiling and bought a surprise factor to the show! One of the biggest surprises for me was the differences in story line between the film and musical such that adventures were cut short etc. This was not in any way a deal breaker, just unexpected. The show came to an end after Mary Poppins flew through the audience all the way up to the balcony. It was stunning and left me in shock!

The best way of describe Mary Poppins is the Taylor Swift of musicals (anyone that has seen her live knows she puts on more than just vocals, but a real show). In other words, Mary Poppins was more than just a show! It manages to take everything that step further. It is the only musical to make me feel like a child as well as an adult. The cast were fantastic and brought back many childhood memories. It offered something for the adults and children without any compromise. I just cannot believe how low my expectations had been. It certainly blew those out of the water! A masterpiece with nothing else like it!





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