21/11/2015 - 23/01/2016
First New Zealand Production of Disney’s Broadway musical Mary Poppins
The first ever New Zealand professional production of Disney’s Broadway musical Mary Poppins comes to the stage at The Court Theatre in time for Christmas.
Based on the 1964 Walt Disney movie and the stories of writer Pamela Travers, Mary Poppins is packed with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious adventures, musical numbers and magical moments.
Audiences will feel wrapped up in every second of the show. “At The Court Theatre there is always intimacy, which is a good thing,” says Mary Poppins co-director Stephen Robertson. “As a Disney production it will have all the aspects of a large musical but the audience will feel part of the spectacle rather than just viewing it from a distance.”
Robertson has designed over 150 costumes for the show all of which are made by The Court’s costume department. Work began several months ago by two dedicated costume makers but has grown to encompass a team of eight.
It is not just the costumes that are new, this is an entirely new production. The set design will be fresh and different, utilising LED screens to lend the traditional show a contemporary edge.
The world’s most famous nanny is being played by Melbourne based Cantabrian, Laura Bunting. Bunting is a National Academy of Singing & Dramatic Art (NASDA) trained actor who appeared in season one of The Voice Australia and was picked to join Joel Madden’s team. Bunting returns home after performing as Elphaba in the Australian tour of Wicked. Mary Poppins will be her Court Theatre debut.
Bunting will be assisted in the role by fellow NASDA actor Emily Burns who delighted school holiday audiences recently in the title role in Little Red Riding Hood.
Also coming from Australia is Jan Di Pietro who will play Bert. He joins the cast fresh from the Sydney based production of Anything Goes. Di Pietro trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York where he received one of the school’s highest honours, the Charles Jehlinger Award for excellence in acting.
Fans of Ali Harper will be delighted to see her back on The Court’s stage in the role of Mrs Banks.
Musical Director Richard Marrett is combining the big sound of the fully orchestrated Broadway production with the cast of 28 actors from New Zealand and Australia who will sing all the ensemble songs. “We have amassed the best collection of voices that I can recall in my years of working at The Court,” says Marrett.
No production of Mary Poppins would be complete without aerial antics. Specialists in theatrical flying will be working through the challenges of delivering those magical moments during the show.
The Court’s production of Mary Poppins comes at the time when Disney has announced it will be producing another Mary Poppins adventure set 20 years ahead in post-depression London.
The Press Summer Season of Mary Poppins
On the Tonkin and Taylor main stage at The Court Theatre
21 November 2015 – 23 January 2016
To Book phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz.
Tickets $39 – $69
Recommended for ages seven and up.
Opening Night: 7.30pm, Saturday 21 November
Forum with Cast & Crew: 6.30pm, Monday 23 November
Matinees: 2pm, Saturday 12 & 19 December
Monday & Thursday: 6.30pm
Tuesday (until 29th December), Wednesday, Friday & Saturday: 7.30pm
Tuesday 5th, 12th & 19th January 2016: 6.30pm
Laura Bunting: Mary Poppins;
Jan Di Pietro: Bert;
Emily Burns: Mary Poppins (Alternate);
Nick Purdie: Bert (Alternate);
Ali Harper: Mrs Banks;
Michael Lee Porter: Mr Banks;
Emma Moore: Jane Banks;
Olivia Costello: Jane Banks;
Toby Cammock-Elliott: Michael Banks;
Ollie Bubb: Michael Banks;
Yvonne Martin: Mrs Brill;
Cameron Douglas: Robertson Ay;
Angela Johnson: Miss Andrew;
Lucy Porter: Bird Woman;
Steven Ray: Admiral Broom/Bank Chairman;
ENSEMBLE: Allegra Canton; Awhimai Fraser; Ben Freeth; Brylee Lockhart; Chris McRae; Hannah Spedding; Jack Marshall; Jane Leonard; Jason Yang-Westland; Kim Garrett; Olly Humphries; Tizane McEvoy; Tom Worthington
Richard Marrett: Conductor/Keyboard;
Matt Everingham: Keyboard;
Michael Story: Bass;
Iain Brandram-Adams: Cello
Ross Gumbley: Co-Director;
Stephen Robertson: Co-Director, Choreographer, Costume Designer;
Richard Marrett: Musical Director;
Harold Moot: Set Designer;
Grant Robertson: Lighting Designer;
Ben Rentoul: Sound Designer;
Glen Ruske: Sound Designer;
Dave Sparks: Animation Designer;
Ashlyn Smith: Stage Manager.
Theatre , Musical , Family ,
Honours the story’s magically restorative powers
Review by Naomi van den Broek 22nd Nov 2015
For an Edwardian heroine, Mary Poppins is modern, uncompromising and has a philosophy that still resonates with a modern audience almost 100 years later. This opening night performance at The Court Theatre is a joyous celebration of this wonderful literary icon, and the impact that one person is able to have on the lives of those around them.
There can be no doubt of the sheer scale and huge degree of effort that has gone into the realisation of this season of Mary Poppins. The technical demands, from lightning fast costume changes to the challenge of flying Mary in a theatre without a real fly floor, leave me in no doubt that while this performance appears assured and easy from my seat in the audience, huge amounts of planning and frenetic backstage activity are contributing to what is a delightfully entertaining viewing experience.
Mention must be made of the elegant set packed with surprises, designed by Harold Moot, featuring rear projection of glorious animation from Dave Spark. Grant Robertson’s beautiful lighting design adds just the right elements of sparkle and enchantment. These elements combine with Stephen Robertson’s magical costumes – fully realised by an exceptional wardrobe team – to set the scene for a fantastical and bewitching evening of theatre from the opening number. This is a production that will certainly warrant return visits to appreciate in full the beautiful design details and strong technical elements that give this Christchurch season its platform.
The cast of 28 perform with boundless energy, commitment and joy. Make no mistake, Mary Poppins is an ensemble piece par excellence. Each cast member contributes with flair and verve, and each is worthy of individual applause. Special mention must be made of some wonderful work by Lucy Porter (Bird Woman), Angela Johnson (Miss Andrew), Kim Garrett’s exuberant Miss Corry, Jason Yang-Westland (Neleus) and the delightfully comic duo of Cameron Douglas (Robertson Ay) and Yvonne Martin (Mrs Brill).
The central journey of the show is that of the Banks Family as they face the very relatable challenges of modern life. Michael Lee Porter as George Banks creates a very real transition from a workaholic absent father, overcoming his personal childhood scars to find that elusive work-life balance. Ali Harper, as his wife Winifred, gives an honest and tender portrayal of a woman dealing with the transition from career to motherhood, while struggling to communicate to an often distant partner about her concerns and challenges. Jane Banks (Emma Moore) and Michael Banks (Ollie Bubb) have the audience eating out of the palms of their hands with their unaffected and heartfelt performances, as well as some very testing part singing.
Of course it’s Mary and Bert that we are all here to see, and Laura Bunting (Mary Poppins) and Jan Di Pietro (Bert) do not disappoint. They guide us through the story with warmth, vigour, talent and heart, and the audience makes their appreciation of these fine performances very clear with an exuberant and joyous ovation as they take their bows.
The creative team should be feeling incredibly proud of this all singing, all dancing production. Directors Stephen Robertson and Ross Gumbley tread the line between fantasy and honesty very neatly, and Robertson’s inimitable touch and attention to detail in the staging and choreography is evident at all turns from this master of musical theatre. Richard Marrett, as Musical Director, manages not only the challenges of synching live and pre-recorded music, but ensures that the vocal work on stage is rich and animated with perfect diction and delivery. The full chorus numbers like ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and ‘Jolly Holiday’ are an absolute delight to behold.
It is apparent, on reading the cast biographies in the programme, that one other organisation also deserves a bow for their contribution to Mary Poppins. With over 70% of the adult cast being either staff, or past or current students of NASDA (the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art), there can be no overlooking the role this institution plays in the incubation and nurturing of young talent.
The story of P L Travers’ Mary Poppins has been so well encapsulated in the stage musical (also based on the Walt Disney film), and it is still a tonic for modern life all these years on. This Court Theatre production honours the wonder and magically restorative powers of this story and is one of the best productions I have seen at The Court Theatre. Bravo!
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