Civic Theatre, cnr of Queen Street & Wellesley Street West, Auckland

18/10/2012 - 30/12/2012

Production Details

The World’s Most Magical Musical will open October 18, 2012 at The Civic, Auckland. 

Based on the beloved books by P.L. Travers and the classic 1964 Walt Disney film, MARY POPPINS, the world’s most magical musical, will open at The Civic, Auckland on October 18, 2012 for a strictly limited season. 

American music theatre leading lady RACHEL WALLACE – one of only a very small number of artists in the world deemed capable of performing the role – will play Mary Poppins when the magical musical arrives at The Civic, Auckland this October. 

Currently playing the role in Los Angeles, Rachel comes to New Zealand having received rave reviews from everywhere from Toronto to Texas. 

Rachel Wallace is charming and disarming as Mary, and her sweet voice fits this material like a glove.”

“Poppins-perfect enunciation, charm and style.” Time Out Chicago

“Sweet, cute, and utilizing a beautifully clear and dulcet voice, she’s sure to charm audience members of all ages.”

A New York native, Rachel’s career has taken her to Vienna (performing at the US Embassy), to the iconic Lincoln Center in Sondheim: A Birthday Celebration and to Philadelphia for the classic Threepenny Opera.

From Los Angeles, Rachel said “New Zealand has always been on my ‘must see’ list. The opportunity to both see this beautiful country and share this story that I love is a dream!

I look forward to joining the company in Auckland. Thank you for what has already been a very warm welcome.” 


Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Thomas Schumacher for Disney Theatrical Productions, the New Zealand production of MARY POPPINS follows productions in London, New York, Australia, and Holland as well as British and North American touring productions.

Worldwide to date, the show has grossed over (USD) $731 million and welcomed over 10.3 million guests. The musical is the winner of 44 major theatre awards around the globe, including Tony®, Olivier, Helpmann and Evening Standard awards. MARY POPPINS the stage musical features the Academy Award® winning music and lyrics of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.

The New Zealand production of MARY POPPINS comes straight from its extraordinary success in Australia. The production opened in Melbourne July 2010 playing to 100% sold out houses for nine months. Equally successful seasons followed in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, the latter two cities selling out weeks before closing. The production was seen by 1.35 million people and has set new records at every venue played in Australia for pre-sales and advance sales. In 2011, MARY POPPINS won a record-breaking eight Australian Helpmann Awards, including Best Musical.

The stage production has been created, in collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh, by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park), who wrote the book, and George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, who composed new songs and additional music and lyrics. Cameron Mackintosh and Thomas Schumacher have gathered a creative team of the world’s highest calibre: the production is directed by Richard Eyre with co-direction and choreography by Matthew Bourne. Set and costume designs are by Bob Crowley, co-choreography by Stephen Mear, lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Peter Grubb and orchestrations by William David Brohn. Associate Director is James Powell, Associate Choreographer is Geoffrey Garratt and Musical Supervisor is Stephen Brooker. 


Joining Rachel Wallace for the New Zealand Mary Poppins are Australian TV and stage personalities MATT LEE as Bert and PIPPA GRANDISON as Mrs Banks, West End star SIMON BURKE as Mr Banks and New Zealand’s own DELIA HANNAH as The Birdwoman. 

A judge and choreographer on Australia’s So You Think You Can Dance, Matt Lee was alsothe motion capture principal in the Oscar winning film Happy Feet and the choreographer on The Voice. Matt’s stage credits include Miss Saigon, We Will Rock You and he is widely recognised as a choreographer for his work with Hilary Duff, Human Nature and Guy Sebastian. Matt was awarded the 2011 Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor in a Musical for his role in Mary Poppins.

Discovered as a 13-year-old to appear in the award-winning film The Devil’s Playground, Simon Burke’s showbiz career has now spanned decades and the globe. He returned from the West End where he starred as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (London Palladium and Princess Theatre Toronto), to take up the role of Mr Banks. Australian musical theatre includes lead roles in Les Miserables and Chicago, while TV roles include 23 years as a host of Play School, Rescue: Special Ops, Brides of Christ and Water Rats.

Featuring on Channel Nine’s Underbelly Razor, Pippa Grandison’s other recent career highlights include playing Elphaba for the Sydney season of the Broadway smash hit Wicked. Her television credits include All Saints, Water Rats, Brides of Christ and A Country Practice. Pippa has also appeared in feature films including Dating the Enemy, Muriel’s Wedding and Over the Hill.

Originally from the Hawke’s Bay, Delia Hannah has spent much of her career offshore, starring in massive productions by Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Her roles have included Fantine in Les Miserables, Florence in Chess (Australian and NZ productions), Anita in West Side Story, Eva Peron in Evita, Annette in Nick Enwright’s Beach Blanket Tempest, Miss Santiago in The Buddy Holly Story and Glinda in The Wizard of Oz

“The music theatre event of the year” – The Sydney Morning Herald

“A five star triumph!” – The Times, London

“This is a great show, a perfectly engineered piece of musical theater that has Broadway singing again!” – New York Post

“A roof-raising, toe-tapping, high flying extravaganza” – New York Daily News

“A must-see brilliant show!” – 7 Network, Australia

“Mary sweeps us off our feet” – Daily Telegraph, London

Previews from 13 Oct 2012, Opens 18 Oct 2012
In Person Aotea Centre Box Office, Auckland or any Ticketmaster outlet
Groups 10+ Call 09 375 3200 or email  

A healthy spoon-full of Poppins could improve our politicians

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 19th Oct 2012

As the Sherman brothers’ timeless tunes wash over us, and the magic created by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s stunning cast and lavish production takes us to the wondrous world of Mary Poppins, for a couple of hours I forget the stresses and complexities of life and simply enjoy musical theatre and family entertainment at its best. 

After reacquainting myself with the 1960s American musical film version, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, I wondered how this revival, more than 50 years on and based on stories written in the 1930s, can avoid being labeled ‘dated’ or ‘twee’. Surprisingly, neither word comes to mind during the evening (though the role of Mrs. Banks is inevitably completely out of step with the vast majority of women today. It’s all very Downton Abbey).

Instead I’m thrilled that my 9 year old daughter is exposed not only to a world of creativity and incredible imaginings, but also to the dying arts of excellent diction, proper posture, the importance of manners, kindness and empathetic awareness of those around you.

As a working parent, Poppins reminds me how easy it is, in this fast-moving digital age, to get out of step with the ‘work-nurture’ balance. Note to self: turn off the TV, laptop, cell phone, gadgets and gimmicks, and take more time out to simply read and play with my daughter.

In the after-glow of last night’s magic, as a sucker for a good tune, the super melodies of Poppins – especially the reoccurring motif of ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ – are still swimming round in my head. (The kids are the same!). Top marks to Sound Designer Peter Grubb for delivering every vocal line clearly, and to Musical Director Geoffrey Castles for an energized delivery of William David Brohn’s orchestrations and George Stiles dance / vocal arrangements. The brass instrumental in ‘Practically Perfect’ is exactly as the song says.

The overall delivery by director Richard Eyre, co-director / choreographer Matthew Bourne, co-choreographer Stephen Mear, associate director James Powell and associate choreographer Geoffrey Garratt, is uniformly superb and smooth.

Bob Crowley’s scenic and costume design is grand and fully deserving of the opening night audience’s spontaneous applause, during the first reveal of Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, and its subsequent Upstairs/Downstairs inspired origami-like inversion.

Howard Harrison’s precise and exquisitely detailed lighting design uses a wide and wonderful palette, from muted tones to primary blooms, fully enhancing every costume and set piece of Crowley and his design associates: Christine Rowland, Rosalind Coombes and Matt Kinley. No more so than during the much anticipated showstopper in Mrs. Corry’s store.

Technical Director Cass Jones ensures Mary’s ultimate moment is a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring journey for all in the audience, plus Bert’s equally gravity-defying full proscenium-tap is a further showcase of Jones’ wizardry and skill.

The huge cast is collectively stunning. During ensemble numbers, they move, sway, sing, tap, leap and inspire effortless as one. The standard and variety of dance executed by the ensemble is flawless. From the Banks children to minor roles such as Miss Lark, the casting is impeccable.

However, the actress in the title role must deliver Pamela Travers’ magic. With vocal embellishments, precision in her every move and enviable diction, New Yorker Rachel Wallace is a perfect Mary Poppins. Not once does she drop her composure or knowing smile, even when tappin’ up a storm with the boys in ‘Step In Time’.

Wallace strikes up a fitting rapport with lovely Bert, played with perky enthusiasm by Matt Lee.

Pippa Grandison brings a wonderful warmth to Winifred Banks’ songs, while power-house Sally-Anne Upton and sassy Leah Howard deliver fabulous full-throttle vocals in their roles as the larger-than-life Mrs. Brill and Mrs. Corry respectively. 

By contrast, the stillness of New Zealander Delia Hannah’s Bird Woman is poignant. Natalie Gamsu makes a fantastic impact as the dreaded Miss Andrew, while Simon Burke delivers a very satisfying George Banks. At first an unapproachable, unlikable Mr. Banks, out of step with the needs of his family and the general public, Burke brings accessible humility and humour to George’s journey to becoming a better man. 

Personally, the most surprising aspect of good ole Mary Poppins is that, through example and narrative rather than overt political commentary, this timeless musical makes me think about our current government, and how its politicians sometimes look and sound more like profit-driven CEOs of a corporation, rather than leaders of a nation. Their continued focus on money over people, and homogenisation of kiwi kids’ education, is at the forefront of my mind as I watch the outcome of Poppins’ support for individualism and celebration of enthusiastic young minds.

Johns Key and Banks, Bill English, Hekia Parata and their National Corp could all do with a healthy spoon-full of Mary Poppins’ clearly enunciated themes. 


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New Mary Poppins is up there with the best

Review by Janet McAllister 19th Oct 2012

This Mary Poppins has a lot of expectations to fly up to. Prices are $55 to $145 with no concessions, and three generations of audience members will be comparing it to the classic 1964 Julie Andrews movie.

But the hit show hits its mark spit-spot – it’s a stupendous, lavish supercalextravaganza. The first muted pastel and grey palette gives way to the life and rich colour of several fantasy pageant scenes. [More


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There really is something about Mary

Review by Vanessa Byrnes 19th Oct 2012

It’s ironic that a story about overcoming the odds in an economic (banking crisis) is about to rake in big bucks here in Auckland. Or perhaps not so ironic, but rather a true reflection of how successful show business works. A hit is a hit is a hit in any language or economic climate.

The formula of touring big budget spectacular musicals works, and you can see why. Escapism is even more bankable in a recession. Mary Poppins has already grossed more than US$679 million in the various productions worldwide and undoubtedly here in Auckland the show will be a huge success for its producers.

This is Big Show Business where familiar tunes, large audiences, extreme production talent and resources collide. With this proviso of huge economic scale at work, I can only say go and see it. Take your kids, take your parents, enjoy the spectacle and relish in the feel good factor that Mary Poppins brings to your landscape. Shake off your cares and leave the umbrella at home; although at heart it’s a story about domestic or familial duty, Mary Poppins will whisk you away to another world.

Rachel Wallace stars as Mary, the next in a long line of nannies to suffer the highjinks of the Banks children. In P.L. Travers’ books “She is blown by the East wind to Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London, and into the Banks’ household to care for their children. Encounters with chimney sweeps, shopkeepers and various adventures follow until Mary Poppins abruptly leaves, i.e., ‘pops-out’.”[1]

Can she turn the Banks children around from disconnected brats to caring cubs? Can Mr. Banks survive the threat of unemployment with a song in his heart and identity intact? What defines goodness in a person: position, class or intention?

Coupled with these narrative drivers is the central connection between Mary and chimney sweep Bert. They have a mysterious backstory that’s never really explained and I prefer it like that; all part of the mystery. He’s artistic, practical and impulsive. She’s sprightly, upbeat, unstoppable and just a little bit mystical.

This Mary comes with a touch of the Julie Andrews wholesomeness but Rachel Wallace makes the Edwardian Supernanny her own spunky character. She delivers a Ms. Poppins for a whole new era. She doesn’t miss a beat and brings a beautiful, bell-like quality to the high notes as she soars through her journey with the Banks family. Wallace has clarity and presence aplenty. She’s fearless too (as the ending will testify).

Matt Lee deserves particular mention as Bert. Witty, cheeky, always optimistic, Bert is our Everyman Guide through this tale as he invites us to take a special stroll down Cherry Tree Lane. Lee is a consummate mover with a cheeky grin.

Simon Burke and Pippa Grandison as Mr and Mrs Banks hold the story with ease alongside any one of four marvellous young actors portraying their children Jane and Michael.

I loved the sassy Sally-Anne Upton as Mrs. Brill, and Delia Hannah as the Bird Woman was very moving. I could have seen so much more of her; just the right tone in every way.

Fantastic supporting/ensemble cast pepper the show. Wigs, makeup, costumes all done at lightning-quick speed make the fast scene changes look like a stroll in the statue-peppered park. The ensemble connection is fantastic. A highly skilled crew is undoubtedly facilitating the magic backstage.

All the hits from the 1964 Disney film are there; ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, ‘Step in Time’, ‘Jolly Holiday’, ‘Feed the Birds’ – but here they are in live technicolour. You will not regret seeing this production. It has design, production values and performance skills aplenty. It’s an experience that all generations will enjoy.

The set, lighting, sound and direction are fabulous. Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne direct and choreograph with inventive wit.

I loved the Music Hall touches to various scenes that invoke a grimy, anarchic London sitting cheek-by-jowl with middle class British order. A picture-book design underlines the concept of middle and working-class Edwardian London; the Banks’ house is a giant doll’s house that comes to life.

Magic is peppered throughout the show: a plant, five-foot-high hat stand, lamp and other indispensible Nanny accoutrements miraculously appear out of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. Kites and wires work seamlessly together. It’s a big-budget playground of tricks where everyday worries like lack of parental love and a looming financial crisis vanish skywards like a kite on a windy day.

In his book A Good Night Out: Popular Theatre: Audience, Class and Form, the (now-deceased) John McGrath questioned who theatre is really for, what audiences expect to see at a good night out and what criteria we should bring to critique it. In this important book he establishes the assumption that theatre is essentially a political act where “You go into a space, and some other people use certain devices to tell you a story. Because they have power over you, in a real sense, while you are there, they make a choice, with political implications, as to which story to tell – and how to tell it.” But crucially McGrath challenges the notion that all stories are universal. He says, “We take the point of view of a normal person – usually that of a well-fed, white, middle class, sensitive but sophisticated literary critic: and we universalize it as the response.”

I can’t help thinking that over thirty years after writing this, McGrath would be dismayed at how shows like Mary Poppins are perpetuating the aforementioned assumption of normalcy or “universality” with its audience demographic. But the redeeming features of this show are those of mystery and the possibility of the imagination; so often the magic ingredients of big scale theatre where the secrets of spectacle lurk around every corner. We – the audience – respond to the “how did they do that?” moments in the same manner that the Banks children react to Mary’s bag of tricks. In a sense we’re the children being led through an orchestrated experience of fantasy and joy. Our vistas are being shaped according to the panacea of magic on display.

Conversely John McGrath also observed that at the theatre: “…we go in, watch their story, and come out, changed. If their work is good, and skilfully written, presented and acted, we come out feeling exhilarated: we are more alive for seeing it, more aware of the possibilities of the human race, more fully human ourselves.”

In other words we can experience escapism and hope at the same time. So perhaps Big Show Business has value after all. Not just worth, as the solid character Northbrook tells us, but value: a far more humanistic thing. Mary Poppins is essentially a fable of humanism winning over the vagaries of capitalism. It is also uplifting, beautifully designed, crafted and performed. As Poppins herself says, “Anything can happen if you let it”. 

Both sides of McGrath’s observations aside, my twin daughters loved the show and its fantastical landscape. So with their nine-year-old hearts bursting at the wonder of it all on a windy Auckland night, I heartily recommend the spectacle that is Mary Poppins.There really is something about Mary. And you’ll never look at umbrellas the same way again. I only wish I could fly like that.



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