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.Mary Poppins Review
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:
Chim Chim Cher-ee: written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman with new material by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.Act I
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.
...to be continued