For one nine year old girl, it has been a l-o-o-n-g few days. Exhausted from a busy first term in Year 5, and then last week her school concert and drama club Christmas showcase, she has been looking paler by the day. There were moments this week, as she dissolved into tired tears over nothing at all, that I had my doubts as to whether a late night seeing Mary Poppins at the Wales Millennium Centre was a wise move.
I’m so glad that she persuaded me otherwise, with promises of early nights for evermore (ha, we’ll see how that goes!) and even an offer to write a review herself ‘because that would be really good for my English, Mum’. Her written review may or may not be forthcoming – but we’ve had a pretty much non stop verbal review since the minute the curtain came down, mostly along the lines of ‘Best. Night. Ever.’
And you know what, for a tired little girl and her frazzled mother, it really was. From the second the curtain went up to reveal the chimneys of Cherry Tree Lane and Bert – lovely Bert – chin-chim-cheree-ing, we were captivated.
The set alone was truly outstanding. Cherry Tree Lane opened out like a doll’s house, inviting us to get up close and personal with Banks family and their trials and tribulations, starting of course with Katie-Nana’s sudden departure and the apparently doomed quest for the perfect nanny. When Mary Poppins arrives, as we know she will, the children are whisked spit-spot up to the nursery and here we’re given a first taste of the Mary Poppins magic, including the bottomless carpet bag as well as the tape measure pronouncing Mary Poppins to be Practically Perfect, and Michael and Jane to be, uh, well, not.
From here the production intertwines familiar and favourite aspects of the film with newer songs and situations written specifically for the stage musical – this has the effect of making the story wonderfully comforting and familiar, while holding the audience in thrall to the next adventure, not knowing quite how or where it might occur. There was plenty to engage adults, not least in the world of work as Mr Banks reflects that ‘making money from money’ does not seem to bode well for the future; but of course the lessons about what children really need from their parents are the most poignant – I’m sure that I wasn’t the only adult in the audience resolving to fly more kites, be they metaphorical or real.
The energy level of the show was amazing from start to finish – while the songs themselves would have carried the show, the choreography really took it to another level; how the cast managed nearly three hours without appearing to fade even a little bit is beyond me. There were a few gasp-out-loud moments which had my girl (and, ahem, me) enthralled in our seats – but no spoilers here!
While my girl’s favourite part of the show was the high-octane Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, the standouts for me were ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ (look out for yet another fantastic set), and ‘Step in Time’. The number that we’ve both been humming along to today though is one that doesn’t appear in the film, ‘Anything can Happen (if you let it)’. It was a wonderfully uplifting song to end the evening on, and we left with the thought that though the show was over, the magic needn’t be. And in these times, that’s a truly lovely thing.
**HUGE thanks to the Wales Millennium Centre who gave us a chance to enjoy the magic of Mary Poppins**