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Merry Wives of Windsor- December 9th, 2006

I don't want to reveal too much so this isn't really a review more like a first impression of everything but here goes: I was majorly excited and surrounded by people who could sense my excitement and I think they were slightly freaked out since I must have been the youngest person in the whole balcony... But when the lights faded and the music started there I go with a MASSIVE grin in my face waiting for Scarlett to show up on stage.And she sings the second song so basically 10 mins into the show and the song is very pretty and though you could tell she that had an amazing voice from Mary Poppins, this song confirms that she is AMAZING (and no I am not biased).

The whole cast is great and the songs worked really well!
My favourites appart from Scarlett were Haydn Gwynne as Misstress Page and Alexandra Gilbreath as Misstress Ford they worked really worked together.
Of course Simon Callow as Falstaff and Judi Dench as Misstress Quickly were excellent as well and it must be so hot in that fat suit!
The songs as I mentioned were great, my favourites being Come Away, Sweet Love, Letter for Letter and Merry Wives. The dancing in Merry Wives is great!!!
All in all it was a Saturday well spent and well done of course to Scarlett! If anyone has a chance to go to Stratford go see it it's great!


Mary Poppins - July 13th, 2006

"Winds in the east, there's a mist coming in, like something is brewing, and 'bout to begin" and it certainly was, in the form of Mary Poppins at the stunning Prince Edward Theatre in the heart of London's West End. As soon as the prologue began and the curtain lifted up to reveal the work that I had been longing to witness for what seemed like an age, I knew I was in for a treat.

Spectacular, phenomenal and magical are only a few words that can be used to describe the marvel that is Mary Poppins in its current state. The collaboration between Disney and Cameron Mackintosh for this venture is genius and is one to be admired. Although this partnership has taken the traditional story marginally adrift from its Disney heritage, I believe that this has worked in its favour and is a fundamental reason for the production's reaping its exceptional success.

The show's musical score is beautifully rich and shines throughout - from the much loved, show stopping favourites like 'Super...' and 'Jolly Holiday', to the fabulous new arrangements composed specifically for the stage version by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The new compositions are a welcome addition to the show as they have acted as an aid in ensuring smooth transitions between original scenes, and they effectively anchor the situation at that given time.

Bob Crowley's sets are stunning; from the complex Banks' household operating on numerous levels, to the more simple set as used in 'Let's Go Fly A Kite', all of which are equally effective. The only minor suggestion I would make in this area is with regard to the kitchen scene during 'A Spoonful of Sugar'. I felt that the projection surrounding the room was a little unnecessary as the scene activity would have carried it through sufficiently on its own. Furthermore, it also made a considerably technical set seem almost 'amateurish' around the edges, which it certainly was not! In this scene and throughout the show, special effects were plentiful and there were none which disappointed. In fact, due to the amount of illusions I found I did not want to blink in case I missed anything!

Howard Harrison's lighting was programmed to perfection and really conveyed the emotions being expressed at that time, as well as highly complementing Crowley's gorgeous period costumes.

When analysing the current London cast, one person for me has helped launch Mary Poppins into orbit and made it the unmissable theatrical experience that it has proven to be, its leading lady - Scarlett Strallen. For me, she IS Mary Poppins! The staggering amount of preparation that she has clearly put into adapting this role to her strengths is astounding, and this became increasingly apparent as the show progressed. Every facial expression, every stance and every movement cast an exact replica of P.L.Travers' creation in her 1934 book, making her precision exemplary. Scarlett has proven just how immensely talented she is, it is incredible that she possesses such an extraordinary voice, supported by a considerably wide vocal range. Additionally, she dances with pure effortlessness and enviable elegance; all talents that have been developed by a very determined and somewhat remarkable person. Scarlett really captured the stern yet soft centre of Mary Poppins and did not break out of character once. Because of this I found myself captivated by her performance from the moment she appeared on stage until the curtain came down at the end.
In my opinion, Scarlett stole the show without a shadow of a doubt, although she did have a very strong cast to support her, including the brilliant Louise Gold as the evil nanny, Miss Andrew, and the wonderful Banks' children (here played by Beans Balawi and Jenny Huxley-Golden) amongst many others. And it is impossible to disregard Gavin Lee as the charming Cockney chimney sweep, Bert. Gavin really conveyed a comedic element much needed to compensate for some of the darker moments in the show, one being during the new composition, 'Temper Temper'. This number did not go down as well with the younger members of the audience for this reason, but I found it to be a very moralistic and valid addition to the show.

One of the many highlights in the show has to be Bert tap dancing over the proscenium arch on the roof of the stage. Admittedly, the wires supporting him were visible but it did not matter in the slightest because it was breathtaking nevertheless. Gavin will be a sad loss to the London stage when he relocates to America for a time to reprise his role in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins alongside the wonderful Ashley Brown, due to open in October. However, I have no doubt that he will continue to distribute his magic to Broadway audiences. Gavin also shares electric chemistry with Scarlett and they really bring out the best in each other, meaning Gavin's successor, American actor Gavin Creel, has a lot to live up to!

To quote a line from the show, this show is 'practically perfect in every way', and needs to be placed on every theatergoers' must-see list as it is absolutely incredible and will run for years to come into the foreseeable future.

Thank you to Jenny for the review.

Mary Poppins - June 17th, 2006

Shows no 54 and 55 last Saturday: I hadn’t seen Mary Poppins since March, so I finally wanted to see the new cast members after the small cast change in April. It was also to be the last times to see Gavin as Bert with him leaving in a few weeks to be Bert in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

Two amazing, but very different shows: The first one I just purely enjoyed and watched the whole cast, the new people, the “old” people, the second one was about watching mainly Gavin – I even got emotional at the end realising that from October I would have to go Broadway to see him (which am actually planning to do in late autumn!)
It was certainly strange to see even more people from the original cast gone now – just Philip, Howard and Gavin left, but the ensemble seemed to harmonise much better now as it did when I saw the show the last times.

I am surprised how much Gavin – after nearly two years as Bert – still seems to enjoy his role. He was so bouncy, lively, energetic and witty as I remember him from the very first show I saw in Bristol in September 2004 and he and Scarlett as Mary are such a perfect combination together onstage! Scarlett “shocked” me by being vocally even stronger now, playing much more with her vocal range as she used to – and her acting is just perfect for me – her comical timing, the little gestures, the facial impressions, the whole attitude she gives that role is just unbeatable. I had never seen a Mary who would make the whole audience laugh by just walking up the stairs. And she just plays Mary with the right mix between kindness and sternness – just as Poppy used to do it – I can clearly say I have now two favourite Mary’s! (The other one being Poppy Tierney)

Aden and Eliza as Mr and Mrs Banks were beautiful, Eliza finally puts emotions into her role which is wonderful to see – not as cold anymore as I thought she was playing her before, I actually enjoyed her a lot. Aden definitely has made the role his own – you can finally see what an incredible actor he is! He (as Scarlett) works a lot with his voice, but also with his face and body with gives George Banks more life and edge.

Louise Gold as Miss Andrews was a highlight – I was so worried before as I had adored Rosemary Ashe so much, but Louise was not inferior in any way. While Rosemary did Miss Andrews more in an opera style, Louise’s Miss Andrews is more loud and bossy with a very deep voice.

Diane Langton as bird woman was okay, cannot say really why she was just okay – I mainly just missed Julia! Annalisa Rossi was on as Mrs Corry, understudy – not sure how often she had been on before but she was great to watch, reminded me of Melanie which is a good thing – very energetic, very affectionate….

Howard Jones was on as Robertson Ay – that was the most pleasant understudy choice – imo he is a much better Robertson Ay than Andrew Pepper. He plays the naive Robertson with such a lightness that you must wonder!

Lee William-Davis was on as Northbrook, wow, that guy can sing! The bank scene got changed, so Northbrook, Von Hussler (that guy really has to work on his German accent!!!) and the bank chairman now sing some lines based on the “A man has dreams” song, not too sure about these changes, missed the old choreography which I loved – but the one change I liked is that Jane and Michael now get their sixpence coins from Northbrook which makes more sense – what banker really would give away money??? (See the movie lol)

New Neleus is nice to watch, though he doesn’t stand comparison with Stuart or Lewis I thought. I thought he tried to make Neleus look like a parody, pulling two many funny faces and just reminding me as if he came directly out of a comic film – but besides that that guy has potential as his dancing and singing is faultless.

Mark Faith as the policeman was fun to watch – especially “Let’s go fly a kite” was hilarious!

Miss Lark was played by the swing Vanessa Barmby – a beautiful change to Rebecca Louis who I mainly saw in the last shows – I like the idea of Miss Lark and Admiral Boom been drawn to each other… lol Vanessa plays her with such a sweetness and being so caring and Admiral Boom is so much more energetic as he used to be played – just wished Paul Bentley would play his bank chairman that well as well – unfortunately he doesn’t, just not dominant enough for a character who has such a job!

Kids were Roxy and Billy in the matinee and James and Rachel at the evening show – all four adorable and great to watch – especially Rachel impressed me a lot! And Michael wins the cute award!

From the ensemble not sure who was off, just simply because I do not recognise most people anymore but Philip was on (YAY) and they seemed occasionally short on cast, Philip was on once or twice for where normally a girl is… Overall two incredible shows which made me wanna go again asap – well in September when in London for a whole week!!! It is still a “practically perfect” show!

Thank you to Michaela for the review