A few months ago you may recall that I wrote all about the excitement I experienced when I went to see one of my favourite childhood films on the stage - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In that blogpost I listed a few others that I had watched and rewatched religiously as a child. One of which was Mary Poppins. Which I finally got to see on stage at Southampton's Mayflower Theatre this afternoon (it's not often that this London Theatre Blogger manages to get out of the West End and join the UK tours so this was exciting too).
Now, as this ranked higher in my preferred films, my excitement was also proportionately higher. Which meant that I have been as high as a kite for the last couple of weeks, since I booked it.
It helped too that a Strallen sister (Zizi Strallen in this instance) was in the title role. You can always tell that a production is going to be top class if one of them is involved. And she is the most phenomenal dancer. Her singing wasn't of the same calibre but her dancing (and there was A LOT of dancing) was flawless. She swept easily across the stage, making it all look so easy.
The thing about Mary Poppins was that it was just so entertaining. There was always something to look at - from the beautiful scenery, to those huge dancing numbers to the special effects to the beautiful costumes, it all added up to make a spectacular performance.
And she flew. She really did. This was one of many special effects that wowed the little children who made up the majority of the audience. But even I have to admit it was pretty magical to see her arcing over everyone as a kind of stern angel.
The juxtaposition of Mary Poppins' character is much more apparent here than it was in the film. Strallen played her with this beautiful poise that didn't crack throughout the three hour production. She was highly moral yet humorous too. And at times, she was extremely dark. In her effort to teach the children, she was not always outwardly loving but she was loyal to them, which came out particularly in her disposal of the bully after the interval. I love the fact that the theatre production included more of the stories from the original books because you were able to get to know her a lot better and feel like you understood her more.
When I watched this I felt like a child again, filled with wonder and unable to take my eyes from the stage. I was drawn into the fantastical world, to the point where I didn't want to return to reality. And that is exactly what musical theatre should do. Well done Mary Poppins, you were practically perfect in every way.
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