Reviewed by Janice Bailey
It would be safe to say that most of us have been introduced to Mary Poppins in our childhood – usually via the film starring Julie Andrews. The film allows us to experience the magic Mary brings to Cherry Tree Lane. A stage show cannot provide the same illusions, although the professional stage show allows Mary to fly which helps to encapsulate the magic. In MBM’s current production showing at the Arts Theatre, Mary doesn’t fly, which is a pity as it may have helped overcome some of the other shortcomings.
Matt Byrne has made an enormous contribution to theatre in Adelaide but I think he has missed the mark with this production. At times the performers appear to have been directed for melodrama and pantomime. Penny Hamilton-Smith as Mrs Brill and Callum Piotr Byrne as Robertson Ay are guilty of the most blatant overacting, even when they should be in the background. Sebastian Skubala as Michael Banks and Shalani Wood as Jane Banks should be exuberant and lively, and indeed they are – to the point of pantomime. Ellonye Keniry as Winifred Banks at first lacks the ‘softness’ required for Winifred but I warmed to her by the end. James McCluskey-Garcia provides a suitably dour but stoic George Banks. Brendan Cooney as Bert lacked the warmth needed for Bert – the smile evident in his bio picture was what was missing for me! Lauren Potter as Mary was sweet and had some of the sharpness needed but her lack of vocal strength didn’t create the required stage presence for me – Mary needs to command the stage whenever she is on it. This could probably be helped by toning down the pantomime performances of some of the other performers!
Sue Winston, Anne Williams, Nadine Wood and Renee Brice have clearly worked very hard to provide authentic and excellent costumes. The set is generally effective – but do we need to have scenes in front of a black curtain when the audience can clearly hear the set being moved? Gordon Combe’s orchestra does justice to the iconic numbers and Sue Pole’s choreography is energetic and effective. The ensemble numbers are the highlights of the show – as they should be!
Mary Poppins is on at the Arts Theatre Thurs-Sat until July 18 before moving to the Shedley Theatre.