REVIEW: Mary Poppins was not a part of my childhood, and it holds no special memories for me. Blasphemy, I know.
But when you take this tale of a typical family and the magical nanny determined to help them, and you put it on a stage, well it's then something special happens. Hearts are thawed, dreams are dreamt again, and smiles are left plastered on the faces of everyone who witnesses it.
And that's precisely what happened at the musical's New Zealand premiere at Auckland's Civic Theatre last night.
This re-interpretation of PL Travers' books, and the 1964 Walt Disney film, is delightful.
Gone is the sugary-sweet shell of the film, instead audiences are greeted with a well-rounded production that has depth, warmth and heart.
The story is essentially the same as the one Julie Andrews brought to us all those years ago. The Banks family are in desperate need of a little bit of magic, and along comes Mary Poppins, the nanny with the special umbrella and the never-ending handbag to make everything a bit better.
But in this version, created by Cameron Mackintosh and Thomas Schumacher, and written by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes, things are a bit more relevant, and even a bit more modern.
Watching as Mr Banks (played superbly by Simon Burke) wrestles with the possibility of losing his job, and the long-suffering Mrs Banks (a wonderfully relatable Pippa Grandison) juggles her children with her husband and her own dreams, there are aspects of the struggle almost everyone can identify with.
All with a soundtrack of ridiculously catchy songs, of course. Yes, they are all there - Spoonful of Sugar, Chim Chim Cher-ee, and Jolly Holiday - but it really is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious that takes the cake.
At the excited peak of the production, the cast not only sing the song brilliantly but the entire routine is based around sign language - not an easy feat considering the number of letters involved.
Aside from the struggling Bankses, and Burt the happy-go-lucky chimney sweep (a rather enthusiastic, cheeky and joyful Matt Lee), it is Mary everyone wants to see.
And Broadway star Rachel Wallace is an ideal Miss Poppins. Graceful, with a little bit of sass.
With a stellar cast, clever sets and spell-binding story, this is a Mary Poppins which has enough magic to make even this cynic change her mind. Must be that spoonful of sugar.
WHEN: October 18
WHERE: The Civic, Auckland
- © Fairfax NZ News