Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mary Poppins - Edinburgh Playhouse 17 October 2008

The word is not, in fact, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but serendipity. I have always liked the film version of Mary Poppins (with music by Sherman & Sherman), and when my daughter was small I read her the Mary Poppins books. I was surprised at how adult the writing was, and the extent to which MP was a mystical figure of real depth. I was also taken with the way the books (especially the forst two) were structured.

So I wasn't exactly fertile ground for a stage version. I didn't see how it could come up to the standard either of the books on the one hand or the film on the other, so I didn't attempt to book for the production when it came to Edinburgh. However, Hilary was offered four complimentary tickets (just about the best sets in the theatre) so it seemed churlish not to go. Well...

What I knew about the production: it was produced by Cameron Mackintosh and had most of the Sherman & Sherman music with some additional material.

What I didn't know: it was directed by Richard Eyre, had choreography by Matthew Bourne (of Dorian Gray fame) and a book by Julian Fellowes. The storyline dropped the Disney invention of the child-induced run on the bank and had Mr Banks in trouble for basing investment decisions in judgement of character rather than business fundamentals. (How topical.) More to the point, it introduced scenes from the books which Disney had not used, such as the awesomely old Mrs Corry, and a scene where the children throw tantrums and the nursery toys come alive and punish them.

Things that completely knocked me out: the set by Bob Crowley; the production by Richard Eyre which was as spectacular as any musical I've ever seen (even Wicked!); the performances by all the principals (Daniel Crossley as Bert, Martin Ball and Louise Bowden as George and Winifred Banks, Caroline Sheen as Mary Poppins, and the Banks children - not sure which of the several possibiities we had, but they were exceptional it what must have been very taxing roles.

Things that will stay with me for ever: Bert dancing up the side of the proscenium arch and across the top before delivering a verse of Step In Time upside down. The set for the inside of the bank. Mary Poppins's way of going upstairs. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, whose choreography involved a lot of synchronised movements like a cross between semaophore and signing for the deaf. The actual signer for the deaf, who had to work quite spectacularly hard all night to fit everything in rhythmically, doing a peerless job on SuperCF. I shall never hear that song again without imagining the signer. And finally, Mary Poppins making her exit by flying over the audience.

I would have no hesitation in seeing the show again if the opportunity were to present itself. Colour me converted.


At 25 October, 2008 15:20, Blogger Persephone said...

I, of course, fell head over heels in love with the Disney version as a young girl, followed immediately by reading, collecting, and treasuring the P.L. Travers books, warts and all. (It took me a few years to pick up on the 1930's style racism which has been excised in recent reprintings of the books.) Miss Corry actually appears briefly in the opening scenes of the 1964 movie. Blink, and you'll miss her.

For the original vain, bad-tempered Mary Poppins, I recommend a recording made by Maggie Smith and her then-husband Robert Stephens (among others) in the late 60's. An obliging cousin mailed me the tape from a British seller who was prohibited from sending it overseas.


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