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  1. #1

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    Mary Poppins on Broadway Review

    Mary Poppins Review
    Okay, I promised Dustysage I would do a report on this after I went when we met at a Sunday Mice Chat meet last November. So, here it goes.
    My husband and I took our 2 children to see Mary Poppins on Broadway on April 24th, 2007 at the New Amsterdam Theatre. They both loved it, they are ages 9 and 6. They have been acting it out ever since we got home from New York with the London Cast Recording. The theater is beautiful inside. There are frescos and plaster designs all over the walls and ceiling. I felt that the theatre was very kid friendly; they gave us boosters for the children to sit on so they could see over the other rows of patrons and actually welcomed them to the theatre and hoped that they would enjoy the show. Afterward they asked the kids how they enjoyed it and then listened to their answer not just asking and ignoring as sometimes happens.
    I had the opportunity to see Mary Poppins in the West End in London almost 2 years ago and wanted to take the kids to see it also. Because we were familiar with the play sets I chose to sit in the mezzanine (on the 3rd row, center section and on an aisle) so we could see better than on the floor in orchestra and the balcony is just a little too high up. The sets are very tall and beautifully done with lots of detail in most of them. I love the silhouette pictures on the wall of the hallway in the Banks home. They remind me of the little shop on Main Street in Disneyland.
    Ashley Brown plays Mary Poppins and she does a fantastic job. Gavin Lee plays Bert and he originated the part in London, so I was excited to see him in the role here. His accent was real, not imitated; I liked the real accents in London’s performance better. Rebecca Luker plays Mrs. Banks. Both Gavin Lee and Rebecca Luker have been nominated for Tony Awards.
    The play is not just the stage version of the classic Julie Andrews/Disney movie. It has some dark sides to it that aren’t in the movie, but that is the style of the books written by P.L. Travers. I’ve read some of the books, not all yet, and they aren’t always happy. Mary Poppins gets cross with the children and is very vain. But that makes her “Practically Perfect” in every way, like the song in the play suggests and the tape measurer in both the play and the movie.
    I will go through the major numbers describing the scenes and compare the 2 different performances as best as I remember them:
    Act I
    Chim Chim Cher-ee: written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman with new material by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
    Introduction by Bert. Address is projected onto a screen with a drawing of the neighborhood. Lights come up behind the screen to see the Banks home.

    No. 17 Cherry Lane: written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.
    Both versions are an introduction to the characters living there and whom Mary Poppins will be coming to help. Sets are very similar if not identical. Looks like a huge doll house open to the audience with working stair cases and doors that open and close. Roof conceals the nursery for the children.

    The Perfect Nanny: written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman.
    The children sing what they want in a nanny and it is rejected by their father. Song is identical to the movie version, just a little different inflection in the way it is sung.

    Practically Perfect: Stiles/Drewe
    Mary Poppins describes herself and what the children will be like before she leaves. I like the line “and I always wear shoes of the sensible kind” best. To reveal the nursery for this scene the main house slides back into the stage, the roof raises and the nursery room is lowered. Mary Poppins pulls things out of her carpet bag; the prop people did a great job with this, and even make a sturdy bed by just unfolding and laying out her blanket. Michael tries to steal her telescope.

    Jolly Holiday: Sherman/Sherman with new material by Stiles/Drewe
    This is one of the times I noted a significant difference between the two performances. First off the difference between the movie and the play is that instead of jumping in the chalk picture to the merry go round, the penguin café and the horse races the children and Mary go to the park, see Bert drawing, and he has a drawing of the park when the trees are green, there are flowers in bloom, a blue sky and it looks “lovely” as Jane would say. The children point out that it looks nothing like the park today, the trees are bare, it has a gray sky, and everyone is dressed in drab clothing. All of that changes as the children complain about the park being nothing but “statues, ducks and grannies” sitting near a statue of Neleus. Lighting cracks and thunders crashes, Neleus comes to life and so does the park. The statues are actors in skintight costumes made to look like marble. NY production is a lot more colorful. The back drops for the NY production becomes the chalk picture, don’t remember that for the London one, (and the picture program just shows a bare tree backdrop). Mary and Bert change into festive clothing as all the statues come to life. The park visitors all become happy and colorful; a nanny pushing a pram has a penguin in it. The statue of Queen Victoria that is in Hyde Park near Kensington Palace looks like marble in the London version, and exactly like it if I may add. The NY version has her in color which I felt was odd as all the other statues were marble.

    Being Mrs. Banks: Stiles/Drewe
    In the play there is no suffragette movement for Mrs. Banks to be occupied with. This song gives you a look into Mrs. Banks life. She doesn’t feel like she is living up to her husband’s idea of what she should be and feels that she does not have friends anymore. She used to be an actress and it isn’t considered appropriate for her to associate with her old friends, but she is not accepted by the “best” people because of her past. I like the line “I have a name which tells the world I’m someone else’s wife”. She feels insignificant in her life.

    A Spoonful of Sugar: Sherman/Sherman
    In the play this scene is set in the kitchen rather than in the nursery. Mrs. Brill (the cook) is trying to prepare for a tea party Mrs. Banks is giving at her husband’s urging. Mrs. Brill leaves the kitchen in Robertson Ay’s hands. Robertson Ay is like a butler for the family. He is quite prominent in the books but is missing in the movie. I think he is replaced by Ellen in the movie. He is very clumsy but well meaning. The children come in to the kitchen and take over making the icing for the cake for the party. They make a horrible mess of the kitchen, breaking the table, the plate rack off the wall and knock out Robertson Ay. Mary Poppins and Mrs. Banks enter, and Mary sets things right with her song and giving out doses of medicine in different flavors. My daughter’s favorite line here was Jane saying, “I’m not sure I like strawberry.” And Mary Poppins saying, “I’m not sure I care.” At the end of the scene Mrs. Brill enters with news that all of Mrs. Banks guests have sent refusals to her invitation. She asks Mrs. Brill if she chose the wrong day or the wrong time, the reply is that she chose the wrong people. The song helps her deal with her disappointment, she sings one last line and the scene closes.

    Precision and Order: Stiles/Drewe
    This scene is set in the bank. I really like this set, it looks like it is just sketched on parchment. There isn’t much for the characters to interact with at first, just a set of double doors for them to enter through and there are a lot of clerks with ledgers and the bank Chairman singing the song about how a bank should be run with precision and order, later Mr. Bank’s desk is brought on stage. (There is a bit of this song in the opening scene with ‘No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane’ where Mr. Banks is describing how his home should be run.) There are large columns that guide your eye up to the ceiling with a large clock over the double doors and what looks like a glass dome skylight. I really like how they force your perspective with the angle of the columns and that the ceiling is just flat on the backdrop up above the doors. In the scene Mr. Banks is interviewing two different men who want loans from the bank. The first wants to make a lot of money and doesn’t have much to back up his plan, the second wants to open a factory and provide better lives for the men and families in his town. He turns both of them down. Then the children come in, meet the second man, he gives them each two tuppence and tells them to put them to good use as he leaves. The children ask their father what is most important when he decides whom to loan the banks money to, a good plan or a good man. He tells them a good man is what is most important, and decides to give the second man the loan.

    A Man has Dreams: Sherman/Sherman with new material by Stiles/Drewe.
    Mr. Banks sings about the plans he had for his life. He wanted to study the stars and learn all that he could about them.

    Feed the Birds: Sherman/Sherman
    The fabulous original song sung by the Bird Woman and Mary Poppins. Set with the steps to St. Paul’s Cathedral on the right side of the stage and looks like a pencil sketch. Beautiful. With the set so simple you focus on the Bird Woman. Michael buys a bag of crumbs from her feeds the birds. A few birds are projected on the back drop every once in a while to look as though they are flying across the stage. Jane refuses to buy a bag; she seems to be both stubborn and ashamed at the same time about it. be continued

  2. #2

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    Re: Mary Poppins on Broadway Review

    Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious: Sherman/Sherman with new material by Stiles/Drewe.
    This number is amazing. The choreography, staging, actors and everything is so well done. The story continues that they are going to Mrs. Cory’s shop for some conversation. She tells the children that she knew their father “Georgie” when he was little and that he always liked her gingerbread stars. Mrs. Cory is out of conversation, sentences and words; she only has a few letters left. The children each pick some and then Mary Poppins picks a few more. She comes up with that infamous word. They sing all about it, spell it and Mary even says it backward and not the movie version of backwards, truly backward. As they spell it there is a dance to go along with it to act out each letter. It is a large ensemble that performs this and it is very impressive how quickly they can do it all together and have it look so good. The Souvenir program has Bert acting out all the letters along the bottom of the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious center fold pages. That is my little girl’s goal; to learn it and do it with the CD. And yes, both the kids can spell it thanks to the CD. I love when Michael says, “She may be tricky, but she’s bloody good,” when Mary says it backward and then everyone gasps that he says “bloody”.

    Temper, Temper: Stiles/Drewe
    I like this song a lot. It is a little scary though. The children come home from Mrs. Cory’s shop; their father is short with them. The children go up to the nursery and are angry with how their father treated them, they fight over a doll named Valentine, tear its arm and throw him in the dollhouse, they are mean to their mother when she tries to comfort them, Mary tells them they are to stay in the nursery since they can’t behave and it is her night off. Mary leaves and the nursery toys come to life to judge the children about losing their tempers. Valentine comes out of the dollhouse an adult sized doll instead of the small one Michael threw in. There is a judge and witnesses, my favorite is the ‘surprise’ witness which is the jack in the box who pops up and says “Surprise!” The children are told that if they can’t control themselves they will not see their parents for quite some time. The children are scared. Mary comes back just as the nursery returns to normal.

    Chim Chim Cher-ee: (reprise)
    Mary Poppins leaves the children to give them time to learn some things on their own. She says she can’t help them if they won’t let her. She asks Bert to keep an eye on them for her and she flies away across the stage. The children learn that she has left from a note that says, “Dear Jane and Michael, Keep playing the games. Au Revoir, Mary Poppins”, they ask Mrs. Brill what Au Revoir means and she tells them it means “’til we meet again’.
    Act II
    Brimstone and Treacle (part 1): Stiles/Drewe
    In this scene Mrs. Banks has found her husband’s old nanny Miss Andrew to replace Mary Poppins, whom he always says was such a wonderful woman. She is excited that she has finally succeeded in getting a good Nanny. The children and staff expect that Mary Poppins is coming back and are disappointed that it is not her. Mr. Banks then refers to Miss Andrew as the ‘Holy Terror’ and runs away from home to hide from her. Miss Andrew forces the children to take Brimstone and Treacle medicine to make them behave and says that Michael should be sent off to boarding school. Mrs. Banks does not approve and the children run away again.

    Let’s Go Fly a Kite: Sherman/Sherman
    Jane and Michael come across Bert at the park. He asks them if they want to fly a kite. Michael says he wants his father to teach him, but Bert says it won’t hurt to have a little practice before then. He starts to fly it, more people join in and suddenly the wind changes so the kites are flying the other direction. Mary Poppins flies down out of the sky holding on to one of the kites. The Park Keeper is very upset by that. The children tell Mary Poppins about Miss Andrew and head back to the house. Mary has a locket which the children question her about but she is vague in her answer.

    Cherry Tree Lane and Being Mrs. Banks (reprise): Stiles/Drewe
    In the London performance George sings a song titled “Good for Nothing” but it has been changed to a reprise of Cherry Tree Lane for New York. He has found out that the man he turned down for a loan has made the banks competitor a lot of money. He is fearful that he will lose his job, they will lose their home and he will not be able to do his duty as a husband and father. Mrs. Banks is looking for her husband and her children and has decided that Miss Andrew will go. She has more sympathy for her husband and having had Miss Andrew for a Nanny she understands him more and wants to help him.

    Brimstone and Treacle (part 2): Stiles/Drewe
    The children and Mary Poppins return home. The house appears empty as they enter. The children wonder if Miss Andrew has killed everyone. They discover that Miss Andrew has a pet bird, a Lark, in a cage. Mary Poppins talks to the bird and lets it free. Miss Andrew comes in at this point, Mary Poppins stands back unnoticed at first. Mary Poppins and Miss Andrew battle it out over the methods that should be used to raise children all in song. Miss Andrew is forced to drink her own medicine and into a cage just like her lark before she is banished by Mary Poppins’ magic. Mary slides up the banister during this song and it is easy to miss if you are focusing on Miss Andrew too much.
    There is a reprise of both “Practically Perfect” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee” that lead to the children and Mary Poppins being on the roof with Bert.

    Step In Time: Sherman/Sherman with new material by Stiles/Drewe.
    Fantastic is the word to describe this scene. In my opinion this is one of the reasons for it being nominated for Best Lighting in a Musical for the Tony Awards. Backdrop is lit with the actors and set shown just as shadow and it looks like the rooftops of London. Now, let the dancing begin. The chimney sweeps are amazing with their performance. The tap dancing is so good. At one point in the song for the line “over the rooftops” Gavin Lee (Bert) is hooked to wires and a false wall that looks like it is about a foot wide is put into place just next to the frame of the stage and he walks up the right side, across the top he does some tap dancing (while he is upside down he even sings a huge line) and then down the left side. We first saw this in London and I was worried that he wouldn’t be able to do it since the stage frame was so narrow. I almost cheered when the little walls popped into place. All of the sweeps end up in the house and shake Mr. Banks hand giving him good luck. At the end of the song Michael tries to walk out with them all but is instead sent to the nursery with Jane and Mary Poppins to clean up.
    Bert stays behind in the hallway with George Banks, there is a reprise of “A Man has Dreams” and “A Spoonful of Sugar”, George decides it is time to sell his mother’s vase and hopefully help his family stay in their home a little longer. As he is standing on a stool to reach it Robertson Ay opens the door he is next to and the vase crashes to the floor. Robertson Ay immediately retreats back into the door he was trying to open. Mr. Banks finds gingerbread stars scattered among the pieces of broken vase and remembers hiding them as a child because they were his favorite but that he couldn’t remember where he hid them. Bert cleans up the vase. The children come downstairs and offer to give their father sixpence to help him. He gratefully takes it and heads to the bank to meet with the directors. Winifred wants to go with him but he tells her to stay home with the children. Along the way he meets the Bird Woman and gives her the sixpence and tells her he would be honored if she would feed the birds for him. Winifred decides that she is going to stand up for her husband and follows him to the bank. When George arrives at the bank the Chairmen are asking how he has done this to the bank and he believes that he is being fired but then it is revealed that the man he gave the loan to has made the bank a fortune and that the competitors have lost everything on their investment with the man he refused. They offer him a better position at the bank, Winifred comes in saying that they can’t fire him and it quickly put right as to what is happening. She does stand up for how much of a raise he will receive though.

    Anything Can Happen: Stiles/Drewe
    This is the closing number and I really like the song. Some reviews that I read when we were looking at seeing this in London thought it wasn’t very good. But the reason they gave that made them not like it is the thing that made me love it. The song goes “Anything can happen if you let it… Stretch your mind beyond fantastic; Dreams are made of strong elastic… If you reach for the stars, all you get are the stars… If you reach for the heavens you get the stars thrown in”, with a lot more of the wonderful lyrics in there also. For the staging it is Jane, Michael and Mary Poppins singing with the whole company joining in. The London performance had company members on tall narrow ladders reaching up to the heavens with long poles with small lights on the ends to look like stars. The New York performance had a HUGE parrot head umbrella that the main characters stood under while it rotated with lights along the umbrella frame and the company members with the light poles just on the stage and not up ladders. Stars were shown all over the audience, walls and ceiling.
    Mary Poppins leaves her locket for Jane which has a picture of the children and Mary, and her telescope for Michael as she sings a reprise of “A Spoonful of Sugar”. She says, “Practically perfect, and I hope it remains so.” As the children discover that she has left again their mother and father come in and they tell them that Mary Poppins has left because they don’t need her any more and other families will. They decide along with Mr. Banks that they no longer need a nanny. There is a shooting star and they all look at it. Mary Poppins then flies away and out over the audience up to above the balcony. It is so cool and it was even better seeing my children’s faces as she flew by.

    I hope you enjoyed my review. I enjoyed writing it. For any Mary Poppins lover out there, my advice is to go see the musical. It is wonderful and has recently been nominated for 7 Tony awards. And, if you can’t make it to London or New York here’s to hoping they start a U.S. tour soon. If nothing else, give the Cast Recording a listen, hopefully you’ll agree that it’s ‘Practically Perfect” too. Thanks for reading, aliasdisney.

    The end

  3. #3

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    Re: Mary Poppins on Broadway Review

    Very good review thanks for posting it.
    The earth is round.... or so i've found.

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    Re: Mary Poppins on Broadway Review

    Amazing review. Thank you so very much for doing this for us!

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  5. #5

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    Re: Mary Poppins on Broadway Review

    I took this pic back in December, we didn't go see it though, we saw the Lion King

    Originally Posted by Disney Wrassler
    Tassie, I found a quote for ya !

    "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia."

    Charles M. Schulz
    Originally Posted by MWalton
    Did the pages take that long to reach around to your part of the world?!?

  6. #6

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    Re: Mary Poppins on Broadway Review

    I saw it in London in march and (surprisingly) loved it! I'm not a fan of the "modern musical" but this show was very captivating. Of course, over half of the music was familiar and Shermaney goodness.

  7. #7

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    Re: Mary Poppins on Broadway Review

    Ooh, thanks for this!
    Good morning, son
    In twenty years from now
    Maybe we'll both sit down and have a few beers
    And I can tell you 'bout today
    And how I picked you up and everything changed
    It was pain
    Sunny days and rain
    I knew you'd feel the same things...

  8. #8

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    Re: Mary Poppins on Broadway Review

    There is a nice and newer video in the Disney "Live Events" section of their official website that shows a lot more stuff than the old one. It is much better. I'll try to put the link but no guarantees it will work.

    Hope you enjoy.

    By the way, ALIASD posted in the News section of micechat that the last performance of Mary Poppins in London will be in January of 2008. If you are there, see it before it leaves!!

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