(seen at the afternoon preview performance on 9th November 2019).
The monkey missed this show first time round, so has nothing to compare it to.
It thus came totally fresh to it – bar the “Forbidden Broadway” version...
It’s nowhere near as bad as those Broadway fools make out. In fact, it’s really
rather good for the most part.
First, it must be understood clearly that this is a 5 star cast. In order of
stellar-ness, we can put first Petula Clark (Bird Woman). Her few minutes on
stage are the absolute highlight of the show, perfect in performance, delivery,
writing and meaning.
Next up, Zizi Strallen (Mary Poppins) is welcome to tuck the monkey into bed any
time (did it say that out loud?). Seriously, no “scared actress flies” (as
“Forbidden Broadway” has it) here. She makes a fairly cold character glow, her
renowned singing, dancing and acting skills given full reign. Oh, and she plays
comedy as well – a lovely kitchen sequence (take a bow, too, gormless Jason
Kajdi as Earnest).
Charlie Stemp (Bert) is the perfect foil, and in his own right has matured into
a lively “triple threat” with a growing command of character and an unselfish
chemistry with his ensemble.
Final trio of stand-out performances are from Joshua Denyer (Neleus) – if you
understand ballet, you will know why, superb; and Adelaide Barham (Jane Banks)
and brother Gabriel Payne (Michael Banks). The young duo have a bright future
ahead – Barham already has the rhythm of a dancer and musical theatre actor,
Payne could well end up a fine comic actor also able to tackle large musical
show roles... Stemp should watch his back, this is the competition.
Large ensemble numbers demonstrate just why the rest of the cast got their jobs,
as the energy and precision were high – director Richard Eyre and choreographer
Matthew Bourne always inventive and innovating each scene.
Bob Crowley’s original set designs have been modified, and frankly do look a
little low-tech for the West End, and truthfully Paul Kieve and Jim Steinmeyer’s
magical effects don’t work for the first few rows – neither does the flying,
come to that. It works, but it’s all rather provincial-panto visible, if the
monkey is honest.
The show itself sometimes hits that seasonal level too. Certainly too long, with
some scenes there just for the new songs – cutting them and getting on with the
original movie songs would work equally well.
This is as show for older children – at least 8 or 9 and regular theatregoers,
and also more for adults. Seldom dull for long, fortunately, but the monkey
can’t help wondering if there is an even stronger show in there somewhere to
match the talents of an outstanding cast.