Mary Poppins flies in to Norwich Theatre Royal

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Stars of the show, Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins a

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Stars of the show, Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins and Matt Lee as Bert.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The magical world of Mary Poppins has flown into Norwich for five weeks to take audiences on an amazing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious journey.

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The classic tale of the Banks family and the nanny who is practically perfect in every way has captured the imaginations of generations, and this latest Disney and Cameron Mackintosh stage production is truly epic in scale with an elaborate set, spectacular effects, big musical numbers and an 100-strong company working on the show on stage and off.

Taking on the iconic title role is Zizi Strallen who said it was an absolute dream but also quite nerve-wracking playing the character that was made so famous by Julie Andrews in the film.

'It's pressure and I get nervous every single night, I genuinely do, but once you get into it I feel like the audience accept me as their Mary Poppins and we go on into this amazing journey,' she said.

'I always think I'm so lucky, the things I get to do in this show. It's not everyday you get to fly and do magic!'

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Company manager Neil White checking the costumes.P

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Company manager Neil White checking the costumes.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant


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Matt Lee plays the chimney sweep Bert who joins Mary Poppins and the children on their adventures.

Both actors agree the true magic of Mary Poppins is that it is a timeless tale with family at its heart which appeals to young and old alike, and they said the show has mixed elements of the film with aspects from the original PL Travers stories and also added some new surprises.

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Matt said: 'We've got all the iconic songs from the film, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Step In Time, which are two of my favourites. We've got new songs which were written for the musical. Zizi does Practically Perfect where she pulls everything out of her magic carpet bag while singing and dancing up a storm, it's absolutely incredible. There's magic in the show, there's flying, I get to tapdance upside down on the ceiling, there's so much. It's great because an audience from eight to eighty can take something different away from it but still with the same through line of the story being about family and how important it is to stick together.'

And to make the magical on-stage world a reality an incredible amount of work goes on behind the scenes.

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Getting the set ready.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Getting the set ready.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Company manager Neil White said it was the largest show on tour in the UK.

'Rather than just being a touring production, the set has been installed in Norwich as it would be in the West End. This is bigger than most West End shows probably,' he said.

Eighteen 45ft trailers of equipment are required to create the Mary Poppins world.

The crew began building the elaborate set at Norwich Theatre Royal at 5am last Sunday and worked around the clock to finish it in time for the dress rehearsal on Wednesday afternoon.

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Assistant dance captain Jo Lucy Rackham from Bunga

Mary Poppins production at Norwich Theatre Royal. Assistant dance captain Jo Lucy Rackham from Bungay.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Alongside the vast array of scenery and props backstage there is also 'wardrobe village' as most of the 30 cast members have six or seven costumes, with Mary Poppins having 13 costume changes during the show.

Mary Poppins is at Norwich Theatre Royal until July 30. Visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

See Monday's paper for our review of the show.

• A great boost for the county

As well giving audiences a great time, big shows such as Mary Poppins coming to the city also give a great boost to the whole area.

Jane Walsh, programming and communications manager at the theatre, said it was estimated the five-week run of Mary Poppins would create an 'economic churn' of nearly £4m across Norfolk, taking into account factors such as ticket sales, audience members using local restaurants, bars and hotels, and what the members of the 100-strong Mary Poppins company spend during their stay in the city.

On average the estimated annual economic churn created by the theatre for the local area is estimated to be about £28m.

Jane added that hosting productions like Mary Poppins also helped to attract even more big shows in the future.

'Because we have had enormous success with big runs of big musicals over the last few years producers are more and more thinking about coming here,' she said.

Nearly 38,000 tickets have already been sold for the Mary Poppin's Norwich run.

• A trip back home for one of the cast

Performing the show in Norwich is particularly special for assistant dance captain Jo Lucy Rackham who is from Bungay.

The 27-year-old, a former Bungay High School student, first started dancing as a little girl at the June Glennie School of Dance and she has gone on to enjoy an international dance career. Before joining the UK Mary Poppins tour Jo Lucy was dance captain for a European tour of Cats and appeared in Mary Poppins in Vienna.

She said she was delighted to be part of the UK Mary Poppins tour and that it was amazing to be performing at the Theatre Royal where she watched shows while growing up. She added she was looking forward to her whole family coming to see the production at the city theatre.

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