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28 October 2014

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First Night: Mary Poppins (16.12.04)

Mark ShentonShe's finally arrived! (writes our critic Mark Shenton) 40 years after PL Travers’ Mary Poppins became a film sensation, this tale of a singing, flying nanny has at last taken to the West End skies, lighting them up with a tale of merry mischief as she helps to heal a dysfunctional, uptight family.

In that sense, this is a very modern, moral musical – but it's been beautifully disguised in the hinterlands of the past (in this case, London at the turn of the last century).

Laura Michelle Kelly in the title role
The production has cost £9m to bring to the stage

The unhappy Banks household – an investment banker, his wife who used to be an actress, and their two needy young children - have gone through six nannies in four months before Mary Poppins mysteriously materialises to sort them out.

As in The Sound of Music or Peter Pan, the arrival of a stranger is a catalyst for change and a transformation of parental priorities.

That's just one of the layers that Julian Fellowes' script thoughtfully brings out, but Richard Eyre's production (co-directed with choreographer Matthew Bourne) finely balances lightness with the shade that these shadows cast.

The joyous songs from the film (by Richard and Robert Sherman), such as 'Chim Chim Cher-ee', 'A Spoonful of Sugar' and of course 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious', have been cleverly supplemented by new songs from British songwriting duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe that explore a more emotional template.

new musical star

So the show delivers spectacle in spades but also has more tender moments of character-driven revelation.

As the parents, David Haig and Linzi Hateley bring a poignant ache to their portrayal of the emotional distance in their marriage.

Laura Michelle Kelly
Top of the Poppins: Kelly is a "major new musical star"

But Laura Michelle Kelly in the title role is the key to unlocking the joys of family life, and also providing the real joy of this production.

She's not just playing a "practically perfect" nanny as she announces herself to be, but Kelly – as pretty in voice as she is in manner and movement – is a major new musical star in the theatrical firmament.

She's also perfectly partnered by Gavin Lee as her chimney sweep sidekick Bert – who steals the show with a tap-dance that he performs while hanging upside down from the top of the stage!

Info: Mary Poppins is at the Prince Edward Theatre, Old Compton Street W1. Tickets: £15 - £49. Box office: 0870 850 9191. Booking to Sep 2005.
Web: Mary Poppins the Musical (The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites)

Agree or disagree with those comments? Tell us what you think and add your views below

Is the stage version of Mary Poppins worth the wait?
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Absolutely I thought it was uttery fantastic. The sets, choreography, songs andvspecial effects were simply magical.



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