Mary Poppins Jr

Mary Poppins Jr

By Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, and a book by Julian Fellowes. Bel Canto. Directed by Blake Jenkins. Old Mill Theatre, South Perth WA. May 31 - Jun 3, 2024

Bel Canto’s Youth Production Mary Poppins Jr is playing this WA Day Long Weekend, and I would tell you to rush out and get a ticket, but it is completely sold out, with a hefty waiting list. A fun and well produced musical with excellent production values, it features a talented young cast who quickly have their audience smiling.

Making the most of the compact Old Mill stage, George Boyd and Neroli Sweetman (from a concept of director Blake Jenkins) give us a great quality single set that looks fabulous and expensive but was probably created on a reasonable budget. Costumes by Melissa Kelly are colourful and mostly era appropriate - and reminiscent of what we expect from the film.  The director’s lighting design is effective, and Gordon Smith balances microphones well with the provided musical tracks.

The cast all sing well, under the guidance of Musical Director Katherine Frieind and the choreography from Matilda Jenkins and its execution is superb - especially the tap sequence ‘Step in Time’ which is a delight.

Lily Wakeling, in the title role, is, like Mary Poppins herself, “practically perfect in every way” with a beautiful manner - an ideal anchor performance. Matt Ballantine, as Bert is as charismatic as Dick van Dyke with a better cockney accent. Charles Sherrington, who as George Banks has the biggest change in the show makes a lovely journey from prematurely curmudgeonly workaholic to loving father, while Ella Scott is a mature and lovely Mrs Winifred Banks.

Jane and Michael Banks are beautifully played by Isla Russo and Ronan Young - both highly talented young performers who bring conviction and gusto to their roles, and a joy to watch.

Among a plethora of smaller roles standing out are Isabella Giuffffre’s poignant beautifully voiced Bird Woman, Zara Consen’s gorgeously vibrant Mrs Corry and Kaelan Marinescu’s well physicalised Chairman. Josie McAllister is an efficient Mrs Brill; Nick Navarra works hard as Robertson Ay and Anna Robbie sets the standard for the show as Katie Nanna. Lahni Hawley relishes the terrifying nature of Miss Andrew, while Hunter Young moves beautifully as Neleus. The remaining characters and ensemble all work well and bring great energy to the stage (Lovely to see Jocelyn Dale in the ensemble, just days after her success as Paulette in Legally Blonde Jr.).

A lovely feel-good show that charmed its capacity audiences.

Kimberley Shaw