‘Mary makes the sun shine bright’ in the Sunshine State. As the song suggests the Brisbane Opening Night of the beloved ‘Mary Poppins’ the Musical at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC was Practically Perfect in every way. A homecoming for the story that originated from Queenslander P.L Travers’ imaginative mind. Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Mary Poppins revels in the classic tale from Travers’ books combined with the iconic 1964 film featuring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Complete with a roaring applause after every number and a warm standing ovation at curtain call, the production’s magic and wonder was well received by the Brisbane audience.
Queenslander Stefanie Jones was a wonderful delight of a performer as she embodied famous nanny Mary Poppins. Her wit and unique take on the classy character left the audience in absolute awe. Stefanie displayed her talents as a quadruple threat. Her voice was stunning as she brought to life classic ear worm tunes like ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and ‘Jolly Holiday’ with grace and playfulness. Stefanie’s gorgeous sweeping rhythm in the larger-than-life dance numbers kept everyone tapping their feet.
Her connection with the other performers and especially the children in ‘Practically Perfect’ as she began her subtle Mary life lessons and Jack Chambers as Bert in ‘Chim Chim Cher-Ee (Reprise)’ was heart-warming to witness. This is particularly special due to her and Jack’s childhood bond on that very stage when they met doing ‘The Sound of Music’ together. Additionally, the illusions she pulled off with the wonderful crew were mesmerising, especially an emotional fly over the audience to conclude. Mary Poppins is a triumphant breakout role for Stefanie Jones and she is a force to be reckoned with.
Jack Chambers was born to play the cheeky, loving versatile role of Bert. His tap dancing alone lifted the Queenslanders to their feet in the crowd favourite ‘Step in Time’. During this number he did not stop dancing and spoiler alert he literally climbed to the top of the roof and proceeded to tap dance upside down for the already thrilled audience. Jack is an incredibly enticing charismatic performer. He relished his stage time for the home crowd being from Brisbane it was amazing to see his joy from head to toe.
Jack’s animated nature that he brought to the iconic starring role of Bert played exquisitely into the interactions he had with the children in ‘Jolly Holiday’, ‘Supercal’ and ‘Let’s go fly a Kite’. Whether he was a painter in the park, or a chimney sweep on the roof he always had a smile on his dile and a colourful message to teach. Jack Chambers opened our eyes into the window of Bert’s timeless spirit.
The children were the bright light and hope of the celebrated show. Dorothea Seierup as Jane Banks gave an incredible, smart, and joyous performance as the initially uptight daughter of Mr and Mrs Banks. Her singing voice was beautiful and her gorgeous connection with her on-stage sibling and Mary Poppins was real and generous. Fraser Goodreid as Michael Banks was comedic and made the audience giggle with his numerous captivating one-liners. He performed with such commitment and formed a sweet bond with Tom Wren as George Banks by the conclusion of the show. Jane and Michael Banks are one of the most demanding and huge roles for kids in a musical, hardly leaving the stage, Dorothea and Fraser stepped up the plate and wowed with their talents.
Mr George and Mrs Winifred Banks were personified by incredible performers Tom Wren and Lucy Maunder respectively. Lucy brought so much life and often suppressed optimism to the role due to her character being wed to sullen, grumpy perfectionist George Banks. Her voice was absolutely stellar and she showed tenderness and care for her on stage children and opposing sternness towards her husband during the conclusion of the show.
Tom Wren played the precise and orderly husband, and father of the Banks kids with such depth and emotional range. Tom illustrated Mr Banks’ childhood trauma perfectly as it bled into adulthood and through Mary Poppins help, he became the father they needed him to be.
Australian legend of stage and screen Patti Newton arrived back on the national stage for the role of the Bird Woman. Her song in the show ‘Feed the Birds’ is one of the most well- known numbers from the original film. Patti kept the innocent nature of the character as she showcased her beautiful singing voice. Her portrayal was second to none as the poor woman who wanted to do her part and give the birds some hope in the dark time in British history. Patti was wonderful during her interactions with Mary Poppins, Bert and the children as she taught them a inadvertent lesson in helping others.
The cast was full of numerous brilliant characters including the scarcastic Mrs. Brill the housekeeper of the Banks’ played by the electrifying Hannah Waterman. Gareth Isaac wonderfully embodied the clumsy and fearful servant boy Robertson Ay. Mr Banks’ childhood nanny ‘The Holy Terror’ Miss Andrew was portrayed wickedly by Chelsea Plumley, especially in the number ‘Brimstone and Treacle.’
The incredible Robert Grubb breathed life into the dual role of Admiral Boom / Chairman of the Bank and was cheerful, stern and a joy to watch. Stephen Anderson as the Park Keeper / Northbrook was a loving presence on stage as Northbrook wanted a loan and strict as the Park Keeper but let out his inner child at the end with a Kite in his hand.
Andrew Broadbent gave a cunning performance as the Von Hussler as the name suggests at the bank and a fitting strong Policeman. The hoity toity dog owner Miss Lark was portrayed by the glorious Lisa Sontag in a wonderfully coy and snobby way. Neleus the lively park statue is most present in the song ‘Jolly Holiday’ and was breathtaking to watch as he leaped and aerial cartwheeled across the stage with joy.
Speaking of joy, Cherine Peck oozes love and excitement as the Park Shop owner, Mrs Corry. She sells conversations and backchat among other gingerbread delights. Cherine starts the number ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and they all do an incredible dance spelling the precoious word with the hardworking and effervescent ensemble performers that hold the production together.
The group of undeniable diverse talents shine synonymously and have individual moments to remember, particularly in ‘Step in Time’ and ‘Anything can Happen.’ It would not be possible to stage this show without the glorious ensemble members on and off stage.
Mary Poppins the Musical is exactly what Brisbane needs this year, a magical story about an ordinary family meeting an extraordinary nanny that turned their world upside down for the better. See Disney and Cameron Macintosh’s Mary Poppins for the glorious feast for the senses with comedy, beautiful bright costumes, immaculate dancing, and joy. Stay for the heart and surprise sense of belonging knowing that ‘Anything can happen’ if you let it. Fly don’t walk to snap up your ticket to Cherry Tree Lane residence at QPAC until January.
TICKETS 🎟 Mary Poppins – Lyric Theatre, QPAC until January
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