WIND’S in the east, there’s a mist comin’ in… So begins Bert the chimney sweep’s magical opening song, Chim Chim Cheree; and what swept into Edinburgh last week was the sheer enchantment of Richard Eyre’s terrific 2004 stage production of Mary Poppins, now on tour under the banner of producer Cameron Mackintosh.
Mary Poppins | **** | Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
First published in 1934, P.L. Travers’s much-loved story of the magical Nanny who heals dysfunctional families is a tale of pure childhood magic and dreams-come-true, combined with a subtly hard-hitting critique of the society and values that have made the Banks family so miserable. Mr. Banks, after all, works for a bank that - in a strikingly topical turn - threatens him with dismissal for funding a real manufacturing project rather than a paper-money financial scam.
So enter Zizi Strallen’s beautiful, precise Mary Poppins, on her elegantly descending umbrella, and her accomplice Bert, who helps to break down the children’s snobbery, while lighting up their lives with fun and imagination. The 30-strong cast and 12-piece band play, dance and sing with brilliance and passion; the children are funny, touching, and superb. And if Zizi Strallen’s Mary is a little too rigid to capture that wonderful-yet-guarded Julie Andrews warmth, she still embodies all the character’s elegance and wisdom; so that by the time she finally soars awaythe cheers from the audience are deafening, and sound as if – like the best of fairytales – they might go on for ever.