My visit to the fabulous London Towne, where I only got ripped off twice

The first time was when I chose "for here" instead of "takeaway" as I bought a slice of pizza for lunch. The girl giving me the option didn't mention that in choosing to sit down I would be paying 3.80 instead of 1.95. The sit-down version did come with salad on the side, but I hardly felt that little bit of lettuce was worth 2 quid. It was good pizza, though.

I really wanted to see a show, but there were only a few that had Thursday matinees and the half-priced stall at Leicester Square was no help. So I gave up on that idea, and after the interview I headed for Wardour Street to eat lunch at this Thai restaurant I'd read about. On the way, I realized that I was close to the Prince Edward theatre, where the matinee of Mary Poppins: The Musical would be showing soon. I went in, picking my way through hordes of children, to ask if they had any student discount tickets left for the matinee. They did, and I was all happy because I was going to see a show, even if it meant there would be no time for Thai.

I should have stuck with the Thai.

Mary Poppins was the second rip-off of my trip, which baffles me exceedingly. When you consider the other West End/Broadway adaptations of Disney films like Beauty & the Beast, The Lion King, and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, it's not like I was taking some huge risk. It should have been great. And parts of it were, but in general the thing just didn't grab me, which makes me very sad. So here's a little slap-dash review of sorts that I came up with as I puzzled out why I didn't so much love this play.

First, let me point out the good things--namely the cast, the special effects, and the set design. They were great. Scarlett Strallen played Mary Poppins and was hysterically funny. She swept around with her nose in the air and spoke in a high, prissy, silvery voice. Gavin Lee was great as Bert, which was good since he quite possibly had more stage time than Mary Poppins did--it seemed like he was in nearly every scene. And a lot of the minor characters (like the housekeeper and the park warden) got quite a few of the laughs. So yes, all the actors did a good job with what they had, but they just weren't given great material.

The story was changed quite a bit, but that could have been to make it more faithful to the original story. Since I haven't read the books since I was eight, I couldn't tell you. Some of the changes were good (the parents, especially the mother, got more time--and she isn't a suffragette in this one) and others were just convoluted and a bit boring.

Eight new songs were written to pad out the script, and with the exception of one decent one ("Anything Can Happen") the rest were . . . meh. Since the play clocked in at a full 3 hours, I'm thinking they could have done without a couple of those. I even tried on the train ride home to see if I could remember any of the tunes and I couldn't. The one image that will remain seared in my brain forever, though, is the part where all of Jane & Michael's toys come alive and start terrorizing the children during the song "Temper, Temper" to show them what happens to bad little boys and girls who mistreat their toys (ie, their toys rise up and kill them). That mess creeped me out, and I'm surprised none of the 3 million children in the audience started crying. I would've. You'll notice they don't put that one on the website.

The few Magical Theatre Moments (and yes, there were some, which made me happy) happened during the familiar original songs like "Feed the Birds," "Let's Go Fly a Kite," and "Steppin' Time." A few of those didn't happen until the second act, which is the main reason I stayed through intermission (that and the obsene amount of money I'd just given them, student discount notwithstanding). You know it's bad when you consider leaving at intermission to go walk down by the river--a thing which I have never before done in my entire life.

The kids in the audience seemed to enjoy the show, though, even if some of them have been taught that any time a song with a discernable beat starts playing then they must begin clapping along immediately and then not stop, ever.

It's opening on Broadway in October. My advice is to pass and see something else instead. I take comfort in the fact that I will see Wicked in September and it will heal my wounded soul with its fabulousness.


Mary said... [reply]

Nem, thanks for writing your MP review! I have to say I'm truly disappointed, because I was very much looking forward to seeing it. It's possible that they'll change it up a bit before it hits NY. That's happened with a few shows (Chess, for one.) Still, this is good info for the financially challenged who must be acutely selective in their choice of live entertainment opportunities. Yay Wicked.

kristen said... [reply]

So you basically paid a tax for sitting in the restaurant. That's crap. Next time just say you're doing take-out, then change your mind and sit down at a table.

If I don't 'see you' again, happy Fourth of July! :)
(you can't forget the american holidays)

CoolMom said... [reply]

It makes me very sad that the last production I saw here in Alaska was when the high school did "Brigadoon" in about 1996, and some friend of yours (male) ran into a piece of the set and hurt himself. The Phantom was here about 12 years ago. Sad.

But the Shakespearean Festival last summer in Utah was very nice. I could do that every summer. I'd almost move there for it.

Nemesis said... [reply]

I know, Mary! I was expecting it to be so great! I wish you luck in your fiscally-influenced entertainment choices.

Kristen, I think I've actually been invited to a 4th of July bbq for expatriots. It won't be as great as the one we threw, obviously, but I'm looking forward to it!

Mom, I'd forgotten all about that kid sliding into the bridge. That was awesome. And yes, we should make the Shakespearean festival a tradition.

chosha said... [reply]

I get the whole 'take-out is cheaper' thing (no dishes to clear or wash, etc) but TWICE THE PRICE??? That bites!

The McCulloch Family said... [reply]

We went to an ice cream place a couple weeks ago and it was 1/2 off to order at the to go window and sit outside. I had never even heard of that before.

blackjazz said... [reply]

Am I allowed to say I'm not surprised? Before the invasion of the US fast-food places, most eating establishments in the UK that offered the takeaway/eat-in (to-go/for-here) option would charge more for eating in. Providing somewhere for people to sit and eat obviously has a cost and if they don't charge more the takeaway customers are subsidising the eat-in ones. I guess the size of the difference is a reflection of property prices in London and the lack of conscience when it comes to parting tourists from their unfamiliar foreign cash.

I've made a mental note not to bother with Mary Poppins even though she was my boyhood idol.

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