This particular trip to Bristol Hippodrome wasn’t exactly the watching from the cheap seats as the tickets we paid for were anything but cheap! However the words “worth it” spring immediately to mind.
I decided against the pantomime this year, and went for something a little more sophisticated than screaming “IT’S BEHIND YOU” and having kids spray popcorn and gummy worms over my head.
As we sat and waited for the doors of 17 Cherry Tree Lane to open, I began to feel excitement to see the show and pressure to review it fully. There has been a lot of shining praise for this play so I didn’t want to just conform to it all and feel pressure to agree. And for the first section of the play I didn’t.
I found the beginning slow and dry, with a lack luster Mr Banks and a Mary Poppins that just wasn’t Julie Andrews. I was thoroughly deflated thinking about the price of the ticket for what I got in return. However the first outing with Mary entirely transformed the stage, the energy picked up and the substitute for the cartoon penguins for the dancing statues was a genius idea and choreography from Matthew Bourne exquisite as always.
In the original film Mrs Banks is protesting for women’s rights throughout, and Cameron Mackintosh put a wonderful spin on her by having her as a strong woman who occasionally dropped feminist hints in, showing that she didn’t depend on the role of a suffragette.
Intricate sets were shown off during scene transitions with the Cherry tree lane dolls house doors opening to reveal different part of the house. It was small changes like the built in set and extra snippets of songs, characters and scenes that enhanced the story and made it just as special as the film.
Bert, played by Matt Lee, acted as an omnipresent narrator as well as Mary Poppins very best friend and number one adventure companion. He was a strong role in the show and I enjoyed his friendly character and engaging conversations when he broke the fourth wall between the audience and him by speaking directly us.
I will confess. I wanted Zizi Strallen to not be the Mary Poppins that Julie Andrews made us all fall in love with. But I did indeed fall in love with her after a very short amount of time. She didn’t try to entirely imitate Julie Andrews but had her own slight different interpretation and version of Mary Poppins. She was utterly perfect for the role and I will look out for her in more things.
The highlights of mine were the songs Step in time and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, if you can bear to watch the low resolution videos of them on YouTube, please do! Also bear in mind those tend to be a few years old as well. So imagine what they are like now!
I cannot explain how intricate the choreography was for Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, with each letter having its own movement and the chorus speeding up to create a huge finale of overlapping singing and super quick sign language type moves.
Step in time satisfied the dance that the show needed. The difficult tap routine over the roof tops which escalated to Bert scaling the proscenium arch and tap dancing on a moving platform whilst suspended upside down from the top of the arch.
But the cherry on top of the whole production was Mary Poppins’ exit at the end of the show. I was sat in the front couple of rows in the grand circle and as Poppins seamlessly rose up off the stage and above all the heads in the audience, I could of reached up and taken her shoe off if I had wanted. Everyone held their breath as they craned their necks to see every last second they could of elegant floating Mary.
Old fashioned, heart warming musical has been brought back to life and given a new glow. I grinned uncontrollably throughout and cannot praise the production and everyone involved enough.