As Julie Andrews once sang, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun”. Rosie Williamson’s character Eliza Von Poppins certainly brings more than just a spoonful of fun to her show/motivational lecture, A Practically Perfect Guide to Living. Williamson has created a lively and relentlessly cheery character in Eliza who is here to teach us all how to achieve practically perfect lives, inspired by the wisdom of her guru, Julie Andrews. However, it is not all raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, as the mask begins to slip as the show progresses and we see the real Rosie underneath it all, helped along reliably by a straight-talking umbrella…
For die-hard fans of Dame Julie Andrews, this show is a clever and nostalgic tribute to her. Williamson’s steps to practical perfection are well thought out and achievable, whilst also drawing heavily from Andrews’ most famous characters. It makes for a refreshing take on the heavily saturated “guide to life” market. The musical arrangements, created by Matthew Samer, hilariously repurpose some of the more famous show tunes and are a real highlight of the show. It’s clear we’re not to take life too seriously as we’re encouraged to work through our “workbook” and find ways to practice gratitude in a sing-along rendition of ‘My Favourite Things’ rewritten using audience suggestions.
However, this show is not family friendly. The use of bad language and the darker places that the show goes to is a little unexpected after the relentless enthusiasm of the opening. I’m not entirely convinced that the shift in tone worked. Clearly Williamson wrote this show to cope with her frustrations at not achieving her own practically perfect existence; for me personally I was so engrossed in her hilarious Eliza-isms that I would happily have watched a whole show of this ridiculous character who, although a little eccentric, actually has a lot of wise words to share.
Nonetheless, the show is fun and moving in places, with some beautiful renditions of ‘Feed the Birds’ and ‘Climb Every Mountain’ proving particularly heart-wrenching. Special commendation must also go to the wonderful parrot umbrella puppet, designed by Russell Chadwick Morbey. It’s an excellent replica of the prop from Mary Poppins and Williamson uses it hilariously to voice her inner self-critic and add a healthy dose of reality and common sense to the proceedings. All in all, it’s an engaging and uplifting show with some beautiful musical and comedic moments. Any musical theatre fan will be charmed to spend an evening in the company of Eliza Von Poppins.
Eliza Von Poppins Presents… A Practically Perfect Guide to Living played at The Warren as part of Brighton Fringe until 27 May. For more information and tickets, visit the Brighton Fringe website.