Playbill Throwback: Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins - Playbill Cover

The Show: Mary Poppins – Book by Julian Fellowes (that British fellow who wrote Downton Abbey), Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, George Stiles, and Anthony Drewe

The Time: September 27, 2009

Me: Nearly College Graduate, Moving to NYC for Big Important Internship.

Near the end of the summer of 2009, I was awaiting news about a Big Important Internship in NYC. My last requirement for my degree was an internship, and technically, I had already started a journalism internship with an entertainment website. If I didn’t get the Big Important Internship, I could still finish my degree and get my diploma.

Having not heard anything, I assumed that I wouldn’t get it. Only a few weeks before orientation, I received my official internship offer, and while I was excitedly jumping on couches, beds, chairs, and any other bouncy furniture in the house, there was the dread of moving out to NYC on very short notice. I would also be leaving my then-fiancé for yet another undetermined period of time, and considering we had survived a long-distance relationship through my college years, we were both sad that I would be moving yet again.

My dad made the trip with me out to New York and helped me search for an apartment. There were days of dead-ends and disappointments including a shared apartment/warehouse with hanging bed sheets separating the “rooms” and a creepy Russian landlord who tried to convince us that $800/month was perfectly reasonable for a dark concrete basement and an old yellow mattress.

"I'm not living in a scary basement, right?!?"

“I’m not living in this scary basement, right?!?”

Finally after days of searching, we found a woman on Craigslist who was looking for a roommate to off-set the costs of living in the city. Everything checked out, and my dad and I decided to see a Broadway show to celebrate finding an apartment.

My dad is very conservative when it comes to entertainment. He is fairly religious, and he doesn’t like stage shows with a lot of swearing, violence, or sex. Automatically, these qualifiers ruled out some of the big shows on and off-Broadway at the time like Next to Normal (language), The Toxic Avenger (violence), and Hair (the entire cast getting naked right before intermission). Were there any shows running that passed these tests and weren’t exclusively aimed at small children?

Enter Mary Poppins!

Here is the original Broadway cast and the cast when I saw the show. Principal actors who were not members of the original cast are in bold.

Original Broadway Cast:
Ashley Brown – Mary Poppins
Gavin Lee – Bert
Daniel Jenkins – George Banks
Rebecca Luker – Winifred Banks
Katherine Doherty/Kathryn Faughnan/Delaney Moro – Jane Banks
Matthew Gumley/Alexander Scheitinger/Henry Hodges – Michael Banks

The Cast from September 27, 2009:
Scarlett Strallen – Mary Poppins
Adam Fiorentino – Bert
Daniel Jenkins – George Banks
Rebecca Luker – Winifred Banks
Alexandra Berro – Jane Banks
Jeremiah Kissane – Michael Banks

Mary Poppins is a spectacle show. Everything is enormous from the music to the set and the choreography. I saw Mary Poppin’s performance of “Step in Time” on the Tony Awards telecast, and having taken tap classes from a young age, I was impressed with Bert and all the chimney sweeps. (He tap dances on the ceiling! How cool is that?)

To be honest, though, I was a little disappointed at the end of the first half of the show. Part of my disappointment had little to nothing to do with the show itself and more to do with the expectations I had going into the show. For one, I didn’t realize that the show had added so much from the original Mary Poppins books. Some of those moments, like “Temper, Temper,” also didn’t match tonally with other parts of the show which were taken directly from the Disney film.

The problem with these stranger parts of Mary Poppins is that the target audience for the show are tourists, and they are expecting an adaptation of the film rather than the original book. It is nothing against the original books, but the average American tourist visiting New York City is much more familiar with the Disney film than the Mary Poppins books.

By the end of the show, I felt much more positive than I did at intermission, and I think there is much to recommend about Mary Poppins. The Sherman Brothers’ classic songs are almost entirely intact, and the additional music, which was written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, matches very well. I never felt like I was watching a musical written by two different songwriting teams. The plight of George Banks still tugs at my heartstrings, and Mary Poppins’ lessons for the children are timeless. Despite some missteps, I was very glad that I got to see Mary Poppins and have a wonderful night out with my dad before stepping out into the “real world” of internships, job hunting, and figuring out adulthood.

Other notes about this Playbill:

The Mary Poppins Playbill was unusual because it didn’t have the typical Playbill articles. Instead, the cover reads “Showbill,” and inside, there are news stories about the making of Mary Poppins including “In Tune with Mary Poppins” and “The Hunt for P.L. Travers.”

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There is even a picture of the Sherman Brothers with George Stiles and Anthony Drewe at the premiere of Mary Poppins.

Bonus!

The Showbill has a Hugh Jackman quiz and a piece on “accidental classic Broadway mistakes” that created theatre gold.

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3 thoughts on “Playbill Throwback: Mary Poppins

  1. Pingback: Playbill Throwback: Next to Normal | Ludus NYC - Your Ultimate Theater Resource

  2. Pingback: Playbill Throwback: Hair | Ludus NYC - Your Ultimate Theater Resource

  3. Pingback: Playbill Throwback: The Lion King | Ludus NYC - Your Ultimate Theater Resource

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