Mary to hairy, enter the musicals

The protest scene in “Hairspray”. Photo by Jeff Busby

WITH a jam-packed theatre scene in Canberra, it’s easy to forget that in Sydney, it’s the season for musicals, writes arts editor HELEN MUSA

Verity Hunt-Ballard as Mary Poppins.

The new version of “Mary Poppins” has no Julie Andrews’ saccharin as the world’s favourite nanny finds herself on a tough assignment in the Banks household.
The brainchild of Australian writer Pamela Lyndon Travers, the character of Mary has a darker side, seen in this stage version adapted from the Travers book and the 1964 Disney film.
Of course, all the favourite songs are there, including the amazing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. And there’s at least one song not in the movie, “Playing the Game”.
Two stars of the show whizzed into Canberra to tell us about it. Sally-Anne Upton is Mrs Brill, the cook/housekeeper. Christopher Rickerby, is the henpecked butler Robertson Ay. The pair join luminaries such as Philip Quast and Marina Prior as George and Winifred Banks, Judi Connelli as fearsome Miss Andrew, and Verity Hunt-Ballard, who won the part of Mary Poppins from hundreds.
“Poppins” is the rage right now, but soon there’ll be “Hairspray, The Musical,” directed by David Atkins. It’s about the perennial subject of peer group pressure, with ‘60s hairstyles that would put Marge Simpson to shame, and two of its stars also romped through town recently to let us know what to expect.
Jas Flowers, a girl from Gippsland, took out a BA in musical theatre at Ballarat and went straight on stage with roles in “Shane Warne the Musical” and “Fame”. She plays 16-year-old Tracy, the bubbly but bulky star of “Hairspray”. Flowers wears a padded suit to play a role she says is all about “what’s on the inside”.
Tevin Campbell, who played his role on Broadway for three years, is from Texas and really an R&B singer once mentored by Quincy Jones. Campbell plays “a cool nerd who falls in love with the nerdy girl”.
And is there a moral to the show? Yes indeed: “It’s okay to be different”. Just like “Mary Poppins”, really.

“Mary Poppins”, Capitol Theatre, Sydney, until August 28. For Coralie Wood’s bus trip to the July 16 show call 6281 0250. General bookings to 1300 558878 or

“Hairspray”, Lyric Theatre, Star City, Sydney, opens June 23. Bookings to

The protest scene in “Hairspray”. Photo by Jeff Busby

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