The words “Anything can happen if you let it!” filled Prince Edward Theatre when the beloved childhood film, “Mary Poppins”, came to life on the stage. And the musical did not disappoint.
The audience was invited into the mind of the magical nanny and were reminded of why they fell in love with her in the first place. On that Thursday night, the entire theatre turned into a world of pure imagination.
The walls vibrated with cheerful melodies and were painted with radiant colors, while the entire cast turned the stage into a place where dreams come true.
The setting of “Mary Poppins” takes place in London during the 1960’s, where the Banks family is anything but simple.
Siblings Jane and Michael Banks have driven off their previous nannies due to their misbehavior and stubborn attitudes. Both children are eager to be pleased and demand attention, which drives their father to somewhat resent them.
George Banks, the money hungry father, is fed up with his two disobedient children and only concerned with finances. He’s a stern and arrogant man, who views his family as subordinates who don’t understand what it means to be a working person.
The mother, Winifred Banks, is a naive wife who tends to sugarcoat the behavior of her trouble making children. A self proclaimed women’s rights activist, Mrs. Banks prides herself as wanting to be a part of the change, yet is submissive when it comes to her husband.
But when Mary Poppins is hired as the new nanny, the Banks family learns valuable life lessons.
A force of nature, Mary, rejects the ideology that women are nothing more than mere nannies or housewives. She’s not afraid to stand her ground or speak her mind.
“I would like to make one thing clear: I never explain anything”, Mary says in one particular scene, during a conversation with Mr. Banks. It’s a nice feminist touch on a simple quote, and further proves that she refuses to let a man tell her what to do.
She is instantly adored by the Banks children, who are enthralled by her magic and energy. The child actors displayed true excitement and I can’t blame them.
Jane and Michael, who were played by multiple actors and actresses, truly captured the personalities of the eager and spoiled children. What was really surprising, however, was how they maintained their lively nature at nearly ten o’clock at night.
They had to have been no older than 12 years old, but that didn’t stop them from being excellent actors.
The role of Winifred Banks was elegeantly portrayed by Amy Griffiths. It was difficult to remember that she was playing a fictional character because she so gracefully took on the role of a wife and mother, who is desperate to maintain any sense of herself.
It was hard not to feel bad for her. During that time period, women were regarded as the weaker gender and weren’t given any rights.
Even though times have drastically changed today, Griffiths provided viewers with how it felt to be a women during those times. It was both heartbreaking and empowering.
Joseph Millson, who played George Banks, also gave a strong performance. It was hard to like his character because Mr. Banks is a mysogynistic man, who has a very misconstrued perception of how women should be viewed.
But Millson’s frustration was natural and he played the role of a controlling man with both emotion and accuracy.
While all actors in this production were bragworthy, the character of “Mary Poppins” stole the show. Zizi Strallen’s performance of the strong- willed nanny was absolutely brilliant.
Strallen truly channeled the vibrance and essence of a woman who brings color into every room she walks into. Her high energy kept the audience engaged and everytime she opened her umbrella, I was eager to see her next trick.
However, there didn’t need to be any tricks in order for magic to be created on the stage.
The colors illuminated the entire theatre, from bright pinks to soft oranges.
The dancing was perfectly synchronized, accompanied by a full orchestra and melodic singing voices. From the main cast to the extras, all actors stayed in character at all times.
Aside from impressive aesthetics, the underlying themes presented in “Mary Poppins” were both important and powerful. Issues such as gender roles and social class heirarchies were illustrated in the musical.
It was interesting to compare society then to society now, mostly because these challenges are still very present today.
But perhaps the best moment of the play was at the end, when Strallen opened her handy umbrella and flew into the crowd, with a smile on her face and hope in her eyes.
“Mary Poppins” was an adventure that took the audience into a world where anything is possible, and if you ever begin to doubt yourself, just open your umbrella. You never know where it will take you.