Reviews/Musical Theatre

Umbrella academy the theatre of dreams

15 September 2023

There’s magic in the air in this dazzling production of Mary Poppins, a place where anything can happen, writes Julie Hosking.

Mary Poppins, Disney & Cameron Mackintosh 
Crown Theatre, 13 September 2023 

How did they do that? There’s no point in asking Mary Poppins as we all know the titular nanny never explains anything. 

But it’s a question I find myself asking time and again as this three-hour re-imagining of PL Travers’ book and Disney’s 1964 classic whizzes by. A house opens and folds like origami, unveiling a living room one minute, a kitchen the next. A desolate park transforms into a cornucopia of colour, the joy of life springing from every corner (and statue). A children’s bedroom morphs into rooftop dance floor, where chimney sweeps tap the night away in stupendous synchronicity.

There’s magic everywhere. Poppins pulling impossibly large items from her carpet bag of tricks – a pot plant, a hat stand, a mirror…  toys unfolding from tiny spaces, as a giant creepy clown looms over the house. Brooms sliding out of small paper bags as the nanny puts a trashed kitchen back together with a tilt of her head, the flick of a heel and A Spoonful of Sugar. Spit spot.  

Mary Poppins is never going to truly sing without the requisite heart, however. This is a story of a family adrift: George Banks is chained to his job at the bank and has no time for his wife Winifred – “neither use nor adornment” – or his children, Jane and Michael, who take their frustration out on a revolving door of nannies.  The residents of 17 Cherry Tree Lane need more than a few spoonfuls of Mary’s medicine. 

The set and costumes are as dazzling as the cast in ‘Mary Poppins’. Photo: Daniel Boud

Thankfully, Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed production, which finishes its 18-month Australian tour in Perth, boasts the kind of talent that brings soul, not just skill, to the much-loved story. 

Looking like she was born in the divine peacoats that fit her so seamlessly, Stefanie Jones is sublime as Mary Poppins, bewitching the audience as well as the troublesome Banks children.  

With a (practically) perfect balance of grace and wit, Jones embodies the neat-as-a-pin nanny from the top of her dulcet tones to the tips of her (slightly) sensible shoes, helping everything go down in the most delightful way. 

When she takes the children to Mrs Corry’s kaleidoscopic Talking Shop for “an ounce of conversation”, they must wrap their tongues around “the biggest word you ever heard” and we are treated to one of several stunning ensemble pieces. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is beautifully sung but is also a master class in movement; I’ve never seen so many hands and arms used so well in unison to music. 

In Jack Chambers, Jones has a fabulous foil. He infuses the beatific Bert with buckets of charm, conveying as much with a nod and a wink as any wordsmith. And boy, can he move. The dancing is superlative throughout, but never more so than when Bert leads the troupe of sweeps across the rooftop – jaw-droppingly higher, in his case – to the toe-tapping Step in Time. It’s a deserving crowd-pleaser. 

Bert (Jack Chambers) leads his fellow chimney sweeps in a sensational ‘Step in Time’. Photo: Daniel Boud

In some ways, Tom Wren and Lucy Maunder have the toughest gigs as George and Winifred Banks. Everyone loves Mary and Bert from the get-go, but George wants to run his family like a bank – with tradition, discipline and rules – and Winifred has no idea of her purpose or place, even in her own home. That we care what happens to them as they learn and grow (with a nudge from the nanny) is a credit to the actors who invest so much in their journey.  

As Jane and Michael, young stars Sophie Isaac and Reuben Koronczyk perform well beyond their years, the latter delivering some of the show’s smartest lines with aplomb.  

The support cast is excellent, too, particularly Helen Walsh as put-upon housekeeper Mrs Brill and Gareth Isaac as her hapless helper Robertson. Some of the biggest cheers are reserved for the periodic appearance of TV royalty Patti Newton as the Bird Woman, whose poignant Feed the Birds may just bring a tear to your eye (either that, or I have hayfever). 

Underpinned by beautiful music, Mary Poppins is mesmerising. The sets (and set changes) are dazzling, the costumes divine and the choreography inspired in its conception and execution. With seemingly as many people responsible for all of the above as appear on stage, they undoubtedly deserve as much credit for the show’s success as those who do. It’s hard to fathom the work (and energy) it must take to pull together such a theatrical juggernaut night after night.  

As the evening draws to a close, a galaxy of stars floods the theatre and Mary Poppins flies off in similarly spectacular fashion. Maybe she’s right. Some things don’t need explanation. They are simply magical. 

Don’t miss this marvellous production. 

Mary Poppins is at Crown Theatre until 22 October 2023. 

Pictured top: Mary Poppins teaches the children a magical word in ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’. Photo: Daniel Boud

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Julie Hosking

A journalist with more words to her name than she can count, Julie Hosking has worked for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Melbourne and Perth. She has been a news editor, travel editor, features editor, arts editor and, for one terrifying year, business editor, before sanity prevailed and she landed in her happy place - magazines. If pushed (literally), she favours the swing.

Past Articles

  • Spring into the school holidays

    From Awesome activities to magical nannies, there are so many marvellous ways to have a jolly holiday, writes Julie Hosking.

  • In the eye of the storm

    Breaksea’s poignant story of the search for light in the darkest hours ignites the senses. Julie Hosking rides the waves of emotion.

Read Next

  • Just what the doctor ordered

    Just what the doctor ordered

    29 September 2023

    Dr AudiYO uses vocal gymnastics to take the audience on a fun adventure. Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are happy to take this prescription. 

    Reading time • 3 minutesTheatre
  • Seadragon weaves magic spell

    Seadragon weaves magic spell

    28 September 2023

    The Magical Weedy Seadragon enchants junior reviewer Isabel Greentree with a winning blend of story, song and humour.   

    Reading time • 4 minutesMulti-arts
  • Lifting the weight of the world

    Lifting the weight of the world

    28 September 2023

    Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are taken on a thoughtful and funny journey to the Moon with one overwhelmed girl.

    Reading time • 4 minutesTheatre

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio


Cleaver Street Studio