Mary Poppins – Alhambra Theatre Bradford

I thought I’d do an extra review this week as yesterday evening I had a very different theatre experience from my usual ones; I went with my Aunt, my cousin, my cousin’s elder daughter and her daughter.  Four generations all looking forward to seeing the same production and already singing the songs before we got to Bradford.

My theatre going experiences don’t usually involve a child of 9, and this one is particularly squirmy and full of questions, so it’s a testament to the production that she was relative still and quiet for much of the time. No credit for this goes to the Alhambra whose booster seats seem designed to be so uncomfortable as to encourage children to squirm and wriggle.

So, to the productions itself.  I think it is a good halfway house between the saccharine Disney film and the darkness of the books (which gave me nightmares as a child!).  It portrays a world which modern children will comprehend.  The jolly songs from the film are there; Jolly Holiday, which is wonderfully colourful, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Spoonful of Sugar, Chim Chim Cher-ee and Step in Time.  There are new songs too, which for the most part I found a bit gloomy although I did like the Miss Trunchbull-esque Brimstone and Treacle.

Zizi Strallen, following in the footsteps of her sisters and aunt, was a good Mary Poppins and made me forget about Julie Andrews in the role.

None of the rest of the cast particularly stood out, which, for me, was good because it meant no one was getting in the way of the storytelling.  If I was going to gripe it would be about Bert’s accent.  Not as dreadful as Dick van Dyke but Matt Lee’s natural Australian kept popping out.  Either be an Aussie or be a Cockney just be consistent.

My favourite bit of the “new” parts was the scene in the park where the statues come alive and start dancing.  It was beautiful to watch and remember thinking that it was wonderfully balletic.  So it came as no surprise when, on reading my programme in the interval, I found that the wonderful Sir Matthew Bourne is the choreographer for the production.  If you haven’t seen any of his productions and/or you want to introduce your children to ballet take them to see one of his – I’d recommend Nutcracker.

Anyway, back to Mary Poppins!  The set was excellent.  It moved seamlessly to change the setting from street to house to park to rooftop.  Nothing intruded or got in the way of the actors and it all contributed to the storytelling.

My cousin thought this was the best production she’d ever seen.  I wouldn’t go that far – I’m singing snippets of tunes from a number of different musicals this morning not just Mary Poppins – but along with the rest of my party I had a thoroughly good time.

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