Mary Poppins Returns at the Philharmonic Hall: A Review
Stepping into Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall on Tuesday 5th February felt a little exhilarating yet a little odd. Walking into the beautiful venue, one widely known for concerts of all sorts, and the founding place of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, it seemed strange to think that the venue was going to be transformed into a cinema. However, just as we had all taken our seats and were eagerly waiting for the film to start, a giant screen started to rise from the stage below, accompanied by a member of staff playing the organ. This spectacle added to excited buzz spreading throughout the room – it felt as if we had been taken back to the old days of cinema, with the red curtains covering the screen and a theatre packed to see the new hit.
As the classic Walt Disney Studio title page appeared on screen, everyone in the room knew we were about to experience something truly magical and utterly nostalgic, as the recent release Mary Poppins Returns began to play. With the talents of Rob Marshall (director) and David Magee (screenplay) at the helm, it is no surprise at its complete box-office success, receiving multiple nominations for Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Academy Awards. Despite this, I was a little apprehensive as to whether this would be a marvellous film, or one filled with copy-cat scenes from the original movie starring Julie Andrews. Luckily, my doubts were swept away as soon as the sequel (released 54 years after 1964 original) began.
Inspired by P. L. Travers‘ original book series, Mary Poppins, the film sees the famous nanny (Emily Blunt) return to help the Banks children after a family tragedy occurs. Set in 1930 London, Cherry Tree Lane is filled with sorrow as the wife of Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) has passed away a year prior, leaving himself and his children in a state of mourning. Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) is staying with them in the Banks family home to help her brother through this trying time. However, the Banks’ world is thrown into chaos as they face the financial threat of losing their beloved home. Michael’s three young children, Annabel, John and Georgie (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh and Joel Dawson) are desperate to help their father, and who should come to their aid but none other than Mary Poppins? Emily Blunt balances the magically wonderful, but strict, character of Mary Poppins amazingly – she is a brilliant follow-on from Julie Andrews.
Over time, Mary Poppins helps the young Banks children return to their spirited selves again, as they enjoy playful bath-time sessions, swimming with dolphins, and flying their father’s old kite together. To accompany them, Jack, the lamplighter and apprentice of Bert, (Lin-Manuel Miranda) helps guide the children through the dark, and shines light on all the wonders of London. Similar to the original film, there is a brilliant sequence when Mary Poppins and crew jump into the cartoon world of their mother’s favourite decorative bowl. There, we are greeted by the familiar friendly faces of the penguins, creating an incredibly nostalgic moment for all.
Amongst the already star-studded cast is Meryl Streep as Topsy, Mary’s eccentric cousin, Colin Firth as William Wilkins, the president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank and the villain of the story, and Julie Walters as Ellen, the Banks’ long-term housekeeper. Making special cameo appearances is the legend that is Dick Van Dyke, who dances his heart out comedically as Mr Dawes Jr, the owner of the bank, and Disney/Broadway royalty that is Angela Lansbury who plays the Balloon Lady at the very end, providing the message that there is ‘Nowhere to go but Up’.
Despite the loss of accompaniment from the wonderful Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, the soundtrack of the film holds its own. Indeed, the music is all original scores yet has very distinct nods and references to the brilliant minds of the Sherman Brothers who scored and wrote all the music and lyrics for the first feature. Composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman even brought Richard M. Sherman on board as a music consultant to ensure that the soundtrack stayed true to the original, which they pulled off immensely. One of the best songs in the film is Academy Award-nominated, beautiful nursery rhyme-lullaby ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’, where Blunt’s singing voice is expressed brilliantly in the incredibly moving performance. Other notable mentions are ‘(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky’ and ‘A Cover is Not the Book’, where Miranda’s extraordinary lyrical talents are shown.
Overall, Mary Poppins Return‘ was a delight – it is a tale full of nostalgia, enhanced by the traditional theatre-esque room. Most notable were the incredible performances from Blunt and Miranda, a soundtrack that will stand the test of time and a clear message that family and love, with a little spoonful of sugar, is all you need.
This film is worth every penny, it’s splendidly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Next on at the Philharmonic Hall is Stan and Ollie, a movie about the comedic duo Laurel and Hardy starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. It is being shown on Wednesday 13th March, at 7:30 pm, with tickets starting from £8. Tickets can be found here: