British Actress, travel junkie and connoisseur of all things fabulous. Emma's love of performing began at a young age and never left. Not quite as sweet as she looks.
Mary Poppins, the Disney movie, with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke was one of my childhood favourites. I must have watched it over 100 times. (My Mother says I wore out my first copy) So queue a crazy excited Emma once the Dubai stop on the tour was confirmed. I also had the pleasure of interviewing the principle cast, and creative director last week so I already knew that the show didn’t just copy the film, but actively aimed to bring more to the table. Otherwise why leave the house? You could just sit in your pants and put the film on.
40% of the musical numbers weren’t in the film, and we got more background on Mr & Mrs Banks. With the whole story revolving around the appearance of the Nanny, Mary Poppins, it seems fitting that we are introduced to Miss Andrew, Mr Banks’ childhood Nanny, a formidable character eloquently and hilariously described as someone who looks like they ‘would eat their young.’ A woman who can still reduce the patriarch of the family to a thumb sucking baby.
The Banks children are played by four pairs of kids that rotate performances as apparently child labour is frowned upon. Isabella Billingham and Lewis Fernee played Jane & Michael respectively, and I was ridiculously impressed by both their singing and acting talent.
The whole cast is made up of world class actors, singers and dancers. Zizi Strallen, who plays Mary, has the cheekiest side eye glance that you will ever see, and one that she carries throughout the whole perforance. Matt Lee (who I interviewed) was not performing on Saturday, instead 23 year old Jason Kajdi was playing Bert for his first time … and well, this dude looked like he was born to play the role. His vocals and dancing were sensational and he even made tap dancing upside down on the Dubai Opera House roof (yes, upside down!) look effortless.
Check out this quick snip it of me up the Burj Khalifa for the Mary Poppins photoshoot.
The script is excellently written with the perfect balance of emotional dialogue inter spliced with witty comments that not only move the plot forward, but incorporate the musical numbers. The sets seamlessly change between the Banks’ residence to the children’s bedroom, to the park and the staff head quarters, which gives you an idea of the scale of the production. The lighting and prop trickery convey Mary’s ‘magical powers’ including the famous bottomless carpet bag – I defy anyone who took their time to figure out how they managed that.
The importance of family is at the centre of the storyline which makes the whole production a heartwarming tale that will have you leaving the Opera House with a warm tingly feeling inside.
I haven’t been to a musical where the acting, singing and dancing were this flawless. It really was a production that truly made you value the training and craftsmanship of these performers. If you were umming and ahhing over whether to go? Go! You will not be disappointed. No one that I know that’s been has had anything negative to say … and how rare is that in Dubai!?
The performance is practically perfect for children, as well as adults, so it would make an amazing outing for the family as well as a date.
Mary Poppins is running until the 25th May at the Dubai Opera House so head to http://www.dubaiopera.com/ for further details of timings and ticket booking.
Emma Haylan Hall