Photo of programme cover, artwork © the show licensees
After a difficult couple of years it is a great pleasure to be able to return to reviewing school drama productions. Victory Façade in Costessey have marshalled their young cast into a competent and enjoyable production of a familiar classic.
Few of us will not be familiar with the Mary Poppins story, or indeed with the Disney version, so I am sure I can spare you a précis of the plot. This musical version gives an opportunity for a big production and a chance for a lot of youngsters to discover the joy of live performance, or to develop their existing skills and talents. There is a lot of talent in this school and they have cooperated to create a cheerful, well timed and heartwarming show.
This show has a central cast of familiar characters, all well realised from the lead performers, but there are several other roles to give us a chance to see a wide range of young actors, and some really nicely choreographed song and dance routines with many more on stage. The cast were well rehearsed and all found their places with good timing and natural confidence, giving us a show with a very professional feel to it. Everyone looked as though they were having fun, enjoying the chance to show their skills proudly to family and friends in the sellout audience I was in.
The first voice we hear is the Cockney ‘jack of all trades’ Bert, in a very convincing performance from Reuben Elvin, with a better Bow Bells accent than Dick Van Dyke ever managed. His character binds together the twists and turns of the plot. Harry Lloyd masters the difficult role of the grumpy father who softens up as the play goes along, with Grace Sturman delightful as his long suffering but rather effective wife Winifred. A lot of the action involves their two children Jane and Michael, both exceptionally well performed by Ellie Howes and Matthew Patrick who have singing and acting talents that many older stars might yearn for.
However the star of this show, with a faultless and engaging performance, is Amber Atkins as Mary Poppins. Amber is assured, confident and a joy to watch, with a fine singing voice and very clear and precise enunciation and a stage presence that clearly encourages those around her to enjoy the show and do their best.
Several cast members have distinct roles that give them the spotlight for a minute or two and they all gave it their best and enjoyed their moment in the limelight. Two in particular caught my eye as they delighted the audience, Isabel Girling as the fearsome Miss Andrews, and the effervescent Lauren Jarvis as the family cook Mrs Brill.
The sets were simple but effective, and the cast have a trick with a set of light-up letters that was perfectly performed and very effective. You may guess what the letters spell, if I tell you it starts with ‘Super’ you can see why it was complicated!
Overall this was a confident and exuberant production that the school, pupils and parents can be very proud of which will give all involved happy memories for years to come.
© Julian Swainson, Norwich Eye, 10 December 2021