Nostalgia goes a long way – so does a great cast.
We’ve all seen the movie, but maybe not the musical. The Willoughby Theatre Company’s latest production has all the hallmarks of perhaps the most re-winded video in my home and that of many generations – boasting rambunctious renditions of ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee,’ ‘A Spoonful of Sugar,’ ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and, most enjoyable of all, ‘Step in Time.’
Also making an appearance are several original songs, none of which pack the oomph or irresistible joy of seeing so many of the iconic tunes so accomplishedly reproduced on stage, even if they are themselves throwbacks to classic moments such as early number ‘Practically Perfect.’ The inclusion of a few new minor storylines centred on Mr Banks’ workplace woes, some Greek deities and the late-entry of a quintessentially Disney villain (notably different from the film adaptation which wisely placed greater emphasis on Banks’ imperfect relationships with his children) never resonate nearly as much as those moments with which modern audiences are already so accustomed, too rendering the production overly long.
The numbers, many of which are very easy to hum along to, are big and a lot of fun, in large part due to a markedly cohesive cast which has continued to produce expansive, high-quality productions over the past few years. Michaela Leisk fills the title-role that will be judged against any patron’s childhood memories, delivering a mean Julie Andrews impression and memorable take on the character, even if in a few of the early sequences the refined, timely cues and interactions evidenced with the older cast members are lacking with Michael and Jane Banks.
With notably excellent performances from the young co-stars, Nicholas Cradock as Michael, who is also starring as the Young Bobby Darin in Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical, stood out amongst an extensive cast. Nina Marsh as Mrs Winifred Banks, a role dramatically altered for the purposes of the musical, amongst the talented troupe manages to make quite an impact as well as the best of original if less-engaging numbers that never measure up to the likes of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”
Benefiting from a very evident affection for the source material, it will be difficult for almost anyone not to walk out of the family musical humming one or more of several well-realised and eminently classic tunes.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Musical based on the stories of P.L. TRAVERS and the WALT DISNEY FILM
15 – 30 October 2016
Willoughby Theatre Company – The Concourse Theatre Chatswood