Left - Verity Hunt-Ballard and Matt Lee. Cover - Verity Hunt-Ballard and cast. Photos - David Wyatt
The highly anticipated Mary Poppins landed in Melbourne last night and she is a star!
This wonderful stage adaptation of the P.L Travers book blends all the ingredients of good musical theatre and comes up with a winner. There are new songs that fit well with the old favorites, a fleshier story and a brilliant design all contributing to this joyous show.
As the lady herself, Verity Hunt-Ballard is delightful. A strong and true voice along with just the right combination of severity and mischief make her an irresistible stage presence. While comparisons with the film’s Julie Andrews are inevitable, Hunt-Ballard makes Mary her own as she goes about righting the wrongs in the dysfunctional Banks family.
As chimney sweep Bert, Matt Lee is perhaps a bit youthful for the role with his lean and baby-faced looks, but gives a spirited performance without the buffoonery of his film predecessor. Although his light and pleasant vocals would have been helped by scoring his numbers a tone or so higher, when he dances around the stage (literally) he is a powerhouse!
As the austere and repressed patriarch George Banks, Philip Quast is superb. This role in lesser hands could be a one-dimensional caricature, but Quast brings to it depth and gravitas as well as that marvelous voice. He is well matched with the lovely Marina Prior as Mrs. Banks.
The children, played on the night by Hayley Edwards and Kurtis Papadinis, are crucial to the success of the show and they don’t disappoint. With loads of talent, great confidence and timing, (and beautiful vowels!) they are bright and cheeky without resorting to obnoxious brattishness.
There are some wonderful supporting performances too, notably from Sally-Ann Upton as the put-upon housekeeper Mrs. Brill and her hapless sidekick Christopher Rickerby as Robertson Ay.
Leah Howard is thrilling and exuberant as the magical sweet shop owner Mrs. Corry and Judi Connelli puts in a wonderfully over the top turn as nasty nanny Miss Andrew.
The ensemble work is marvelous and the big numbers (of which there are many) feature Matthew Bourne’s tight and bright choreography. ‘Step in time’, the visually stunning ‘Jolly Holiday’ and the infectious ‘Supercalifragilistic’ are ‘practically perfect’.
Enhanced by brilliant lighting design and execution, wonderful stage trickery, marvelous sets and costumes and a talented and exuberant cast, ‘Mary’ is a magical night in the theatre. Don’t miss it.
Disney and Cameron Mackintosh present
Venue: Her Majesty's Theatre | 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Dates: from 14 July, 2010
Times: Wed – Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 6.30pm
Matinees: Wed & Sun @ 1pm, Sat @ 2pm
Tickets: $50 - $132.50