So this sums up my review, and is likely the first of many puns you’re going to get by reading this review – Practically mediocre in (almost) every way!
I saw a Saturday evening performance at the Manchester Palace Theatre with my husband, Max, whom I’d bought tickets for his birthday last year on the day of on-sale. We were in the centre of Row D in the Stalls.
Firstly, hatters gonna hate – you may not like some of the the things that I have to say, but at the end of the day, I’ve been reviewing for over 10 years now and opinions are opinions – respect mine and I shall respect yours. Happy for debate but don’t make things personal. I know it may be your favourite, but it doesn’t make it so for everyone else!
(sorry to post this, but you wouldn’t believe some of the comments that I get when I post reviews that are not 100% in awe of a show).
Let’s start with the things that I liked – the cast was simply ginormous, the kids were (for once in the theatre) FANTASTIC, I think that I’m in love with Wreh-Asha Walton who plays the spectacular and very colourful Mrs Corry. I also liked that there was an orchestra and a conductor and not just a band, and the merchandise sold with regards to the show, seemed very popular (the umbrellas are genius!).
The sets were lavish, incredible and moved more fluently than many others that I’ve seen, even in the West End, and Matthew Bourne OBE‘s choreography was a real delight to watch.
Some of the things that I didn’t like were the additional songs by Stiles and Drew (who are normally awesome!), the fact that Let’s Go Fly A Kite was not at the end of the production and I could see into the side wings.
Of course, this production has a mandatory Strallen sister in it, this time Zizi (or ‘the restaurant chain one’ as tool that I remember the names) as the titular character. I’m afraid that I’ve come away with a negative Strallen experience – FAR too much teeth action and not much depth to the character – especially during the now renamed ‘Temper Temper’ / ‘Playing The Game’.
She looks far too young to play this role, and whilst it is a younger person’s role, she was far too polished and not weathered enough for my vision of Mary Poppins. I don’t remember any amazing vocal moments either I’m afraid.
All in all, far from a ‘jolly holiday with Mary’, more like a trip with your family to a caravan park Skegness in January.
I wasn’t a huge fan of understudy Adam Rhys-Charles‘s Bert either I’m afraid – again, far too plastic and packaged for my liking. There was no weariness to his character – he was again a bit younger than I would have liked and unfortunately I made no connection with the fate of the character.
A fun game for the adults – during the scenes with the statue character, Neleus, how many times does his fig leaf not cover what it should be covering? The skin-tight costume wasn’t particularly well created I felt and my least favourite costume in the whole production.
For the high price of a ticket, I wanted to cry at this production, and not simply for my bank statement. From what I recall, any ‘decent ‘ seat in the Palace Theatre, Manchester, has been graded as a premium seat, including much of the stalls.
Even more surprising, there were kids there for whom a family trip to the theatre must have cost a good couple of hundred pounds for 2 hours 20 mins of entertainment. I get there’s a huge cast, but that was the production’s choice, not the audience member’s. It honestly feels like it’s a for-profit show rather than a serious production of musical theatre for the love of it.
Back to wanting to cry – both the 1964 film, and the subsequent ‘Saving Mr Banks’ movie both made me really connect to the material in ways that this musical production didn’t even come close to. I don’t remember feeling a single emotion throughout the production, not even during ‘Feed The Birds’. To be frank, Les Misérables can do this for me at the same, if not a lesser amount of the cost!
P.L. Travers would never have put her name to this, I’m sure, even though it’s been liberally splattered all over the promotional material to show credit for her books.
Anyone else think that Mrs Banks (played by Rebecca Lock) looked a bit like Mel Giedroyc from Mel & Sue? :P
In summary, we had a pleasant evening, but I’m afraid that it was particularly middle of the road. It wasn’t memorable. I’ll be paying off the cost of the tickets for longer than I’ll be thinking of this production.
Absolutely great, I’m sure, for many, especially perhaps for people who don’t often get enticed out to the theatre, and it’s great to see a family musical in town, I think I’ve just been incredibly fortunate to have seen a lot more over my time and, for me, I’ve seen things that I’ve preferred a lot more.