Theatre Review: Mary Poppins is a dazzling, practically perfect musical

Mary Poppins

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Mary Poppins descending on Melbourne’s own 17 Cherry Tree Lane for an unforgettable night of splendour.

Adapted from the beloved writings of P.L. Travers, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh present this new and improved Mary Poppins production highlighting an all-Australian cast. The magical narrative follows Mr and Mrs Banks, who are in desperate need of a nanny that can put their two mischievous children in line. Following the unannounced arrival of the angelic Mary Poppins, they soon discover their lives are being changed in more ways than they originally accounted for.

The success of a Mary Poppins production hinges on one key element – the titular performance. It’s with a spoonful of sugar that I say Stefanie Jones is practically perfect in every way as the umbrella-wielding nanny. She beautifully embodies the character and steals the show with every eloquently-delivered line. With the character’s trademark quirks on full display, there’s a gravitas to Stefanie’s performance that had me transfixed. Much like how Australia’s own Jemma Rix became synonymous with Elphaba (on Wicked’s Australian tours), I can’t see another actor hitting this role out of the park in the way Stefanie Jones has here.

Among the supporting cast, there’s a slew of performances that are also brilliant and each contribute to fun if the production in unique ways. Jack Chambers is a refreshing bundle of charisma in the role of Bert. Not only does he radiate positivity through the entire show, he’s a spectacular dancer who lights up the stage while slaying every dance number. Playing Michael Banks is the young Sebastian Sero, whose enthusiastic and rascally demeanour is an instant highlight from the moment he arrives on stage. I’d say to keep an eye on this kid because he’s no doubt going to shine in future roles.

Aussie icon Marina Prior makes yet another stage appearance in the dual roles of Bird Woman and Miss Andrew. Despite being two polar-opposite characters, she transforms herself and disappears into both roles. There may not be a whole lot to the Bird Woman role, but Marina’s stage presence and powerful voice is enough to ensure the character makes an impact.

The name Mary Poppins is synonymous with the iconic songs from the hit Disney film. So it’s all the more important that they hit just as well in here. To no one’s surprise, the musical numbers both new and old are lively, full of energy and left audiences with an ear-to-ear grin in every instance. What impressed me most is how this musical treated a number of it’s songs as if they were the big crescendo at the end of the first act. From ‘Step in Time‘ to ‘Jolly Holiday‘ and of course ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious‘, the combination of stellar costuming and extravagant choreography makes a spectacle out of each of these songs, ensuring you’ll be singing them long into the night.

That being said, the bank-set scenes and musical moments are the only sections of the production I didn’t resonate with. I see how they’re relevant to the development of Mr Banks’ arc, though I couldn’t help but feel they sidetracked the overall journey a tad to much. However with everything else being a surefire hit, this barely made a dent in my enjoyment.

Not many musicals have the ability to match the production scale of Wicked, but Mary Poppins is up there. Minimal in some instances and sparing no expense in others, the production design is a wonderful achievement. Aside from the two jaw-dropping giant props, it’s the creatively-designed Banks house that is as much of a character as everyone else. From the living area and the kitchen to the bedroom and the rooftop, the Banks house gives off a homely vibe that adds a dash of authenticity to the production.

What’s most impressive about the set and prop design is the various tricks it had up its sleeve to simulate Mary Poppins’ magic. The creation of a set that ‘breaks down’ and puts itself back together makes for an awe-inspiring sequence that’s as fun as it is silly. Then there’s Mary Poppins’ trusty never-ending bag, in which she impossibly pulls out all sorts of large items. I wasn’t aware I’d be getting a magic show and a Mary Poppins musical in the one session, so that turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Speaking of surprises, the brilliance pulled off that sees Mary Poppins exit the stage for the final time is breathtaking – putting a cap on what is a dazzling delight of a show.

Step in time and treat yourself to this truly unmissable production. Mary Poppins is a delightful ride fleshed out by an immensely talented cast and headlined by a spectacular Stefanie Jones performance. Flaunting the grandiose of a Wicked-level production and loaded with wonderful surprises throughout, you’re in for a night of cheery tunes, exquisite choreography and whimsical fun.


Mary Poppins is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne through to April 30th, 2023. For more information and to purchase tickets, head HERE.

Reviewer attended on Friday 3rd February 2023.

Photo credit: Daniel Boud