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Theatre / Mary Poppins

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Anything can happen if you let it!
A father, a mother, a daughter, a son
The threads of their lives are all ravelin' undone
Something is needed to twist them as tight
As a string you might use when you're flying a kite
- Bert

Mary Poppins is a musical produced by Disney in collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh, based on the namesake book series by P.L. Travers as well as the 1964 Walt Disney film.

It's 1910 and the Banks family is falling apart. Young Jane and Michael have sent many nannies packing, Winifred struggles with being a housewife, and George Banks is finding it harder to communicate with his family. Their lives turn upside down when Magical Nanny Mary Poppins arrives. With the help of her friend Bert, the magical nanny brings the family together with her brand of magic and common sense.

The show features most of the original film's songs, along with new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe and a book by Julian Fellowes. The show debuted at the Prince Edward Theatre in London on December 2004 (after a tryout in Bristol) and ran until January 2008. During this run, the show went to Broadway and ran from November 16th, 2006 to March 3rd, 2013, winning a Tony Award for its set design. International productions of the show have since played in dozens of countries including Sweden, Mexico, Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands.

A West End revival of Mary Poppins opened in October 2019 at the Prince Edward Theatre.

The musical provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: As part of the show's Adaptation Expansion, the Banks family goes through this, especially George Banks. He was neglected by his parents and left in the care of Babysitter from Hell Miss Andrew, which influenced how he brings up his kids and is implied to have traumatized him for life.
  • Adaptational Context Change:
    • "A Spoonful of Sugar" is sung in the film when Mary Poppins first arrives, and she gets the children to tidy the nursery. Here it is sung a little later when the children and Robertson Ay accidentally ruin the kitchen - and Mary helps them tidy it up before Mrs. Brill discovers it.
    • "Feed The Birds" is now a duet between Mary Poppins and the bird woman herself. The song itself now comes after the visit to the bank.
    • "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was part of the "Jolly Holiday" sequence in the film. Here, it's sung later at Mrs. Corry's shop as a lesson on language.
    • "Let's Go Fly A Kite" is the finale number in the film. In the musical it is now sung by Bert and the children in the park - after they've run away from Miss Andrew.
    • The song "The Life I Lead" doesn't appear, but "A Man Has Dreams" note  is used repeatedly, introduced by the Bank Chairman in "Precision and Order". Its function in the film as George's "I Am" Song is taken over by his segments of "Cherry Tree Lane".
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • The musical goes into detail about Mr Banks's childhood and about how he had a strict nanny called Miss Andrew — who appears later on as an Evil Counterpart to Mary Poppins.
    • Mrs Banks gets a backstory of being a former actress who struggles to meet her husband's expectations. He has to learn An Aesop regarding her as well.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Following in the film's footsteps, John, Barbara, and Annabel are adapted out, leaving Jane and Michael as the two Banks kids.
    • Ellen is adapted out, replaced with Robertson Ay, another one of the family's servants in the books.
  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Mary Poppins is closer to her book counterpart, more strict and vain than portrayed in the film.
    • Mrs. Banks is less of a Cloudcuckoolander and much more attentive of the children's needs.
    • In the film, Jane is slightly better behaved than Michael and appears to be the responsible sibling. In the musical she is far brattier and louder. Michael is brattier than his film counterpart as well, albeit not to the degree of his sister.
    • Mrs. Brill is far more pompous and shrill in the musical.
  • All-Knowing Singing Narrator: Bert plays this role, as he's telling the Mary Poppins story while also participating in it.
  • Arc Words:
    • The "Winds in the east" arc words from the original film are kept here, but is expanded upon as the show's prologue.
    • "Anything can happen if you let it"
  • Arc Symbol: Stars. Mrs. Corry gives the Banks kids gingerbread stars when they visit her {something she used to give their father) and Mary Poppins later takes the entire cast up to the stars. George reveals that he once wanted to know everything about them when he was young.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Mary Poppins takes Jane and Michael to the bank, Jane asks her father what he looks for in an investment: a good man or a good idea. After pondering it a moment, Mr. Banks concedes that a good man is much more valuable. This encourages him to turn down Von Hussler's offer and give Northbrook a chance.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Or Re-Ascended Extra — Mrs. Corry, having been demoted to a cameo in the film, regains a bigger role in the musical adaptation.
    • The Bird Woman follows suit, singing "Feed the Birds" as a duet with Mary and encouraging George to give her his kids' sixpence to feed the birds. He gives them to her, stating that she should feed them for him.
    • Miss Andrew, who has a minor role in the Poppins books, becomes the show's equivalent of a Big Bad. She comes in to replace the departed Mary Poppins, but once Poppins returns, she gives Miss Andrew a taste of her own medicine - both literally and figuratively.
  • Babysitter from Hell: Miss Andrew, literally. There's a good reason why she's known as the "Holy Terror". After Mary Poppins returns, she puts Miss Andrew inside a large birdcage and causes her to vanish in a cloud of smoke.
  • Back for the Finale: During "Anything Can Happen," Mary Poppins, Bert, and the Banks family are joined on their trip to the stars by most of the characters encountered in the show. This includes everyone from Mrs. Corry and the Bird Woman to Jane's doll Valentine and even Miss Andrew.
  • Bag of Holding: Mary Poppins pulls out a full-sized hatstand, a potted plant, and a blanket that turns into a bed out of her carpet bag.
  • Birdcaged: Miss Andrew, much like in the book "Mary Poppins Comes Back"
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Jane wishes that Mary Poppins would just leave the family prior to the song "Playing the Game", which replaced the more controversial "Temper, Temper". In response, she mentions this trope by name. She then brings the toys to life in nightmarish scene and departs afterwards, taking the toys with her.
    Mary Poppins: Children who lose their temper will lose everything else in the end.
  • Big Entrance: Mary Poppins is blown onto the Bank's doorstep early in Act 1.
    • In a lift from the second book, Mary flies down on the end of a kite string in Act 2 during "Let's Go Fly a Kite."
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Banks family is much happier. Sensing her work is done, Mary Poppins decides it's time to leave. She says goodbye to Bert and gives him a peck on the cheek. Just before she leaves, she sings about how it feels to have to move on to the next family. She leaves her locket, now with the chain broken, and departs.
    Mary Poppins: Though in your heart, you'd like to stay
    To help things on their way
    You've always known
    They must do it alone.
  • But Now I Must Go: Mary Poppins does this twice, once at the end of Act 1 to bring the Banks family to their senses and again at the end of Act 2 once the family has been reunited and is far happier than they were before she came to them.
  • Canon Foreigner: Herr Von Hussler and Mr. Northbrook, two business men who give proposals to George at the bank.
  • Composite Character:
    • Mrs Brill is a combination of herself and Ellen in the film. She notably complains that she'll have to look after the children with no nanny (which Ellen does in the film), and has Ellen's cranky personality.
    • As in the film, Bert is a combination of the Matchman and Chimney Sweep characters from the books.
    • Mrs. Corry is a combination of her book counterpart and Nellie Rubina. In addition to selling gingerbread, she also sells words and conversations, which Nellie Rubina did in "Mary Poppins Comes Back."
  • Continuity Cameo: Dick Van Dyke reprised the role of Mr. Dawes Sr. (who normally isn't in the show) for a benefit performance during the US tour's stop in Los Angeles.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Corry, whose memory goes back older than time and sells not only gingerbread but conversations as well.
    Bert: Mrs. Corry is older than anyone in the world. She talked to William before he went conquering, to Vlad before he went impaling, and to Alexander when he weren't so great.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "Jolly Holiday" features one, where after Bert sings the main chorus, the Banks children sing a counterpoint showing their disdain for a walk in the park. The song's finale features another counterpoint, this time sung at once by the entire company (i.e. "It's a jolly holiday with Mary..."/"Let's go for a jaunty saunter...").
  • Dark Reprise: "A Man has Dreams" is held over from the film. This time, there's a more hopeful variant in the bank and the original version after Step in Time.
    • Mary Poppins gets one of "A Spoonful of Sugar" before she goes:
      With every job when it's complete,
      There is a sense of bittersweet
      That moment when you know the task is done
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mary Poppins
    [after Mr. Banks discusses his childhood at the bank]
    Michael: Poor daddy.
    Mr. Banks: "Poor"? What do you mean "poor"? That's what made me the man I am! Eh, Mary Poppins?
    Mary Poppins: Yes, I'm afraid it did.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The real main character of the musical is Mr. Banks.
  • Demoted to Extra: Admiral Boom, compared to his film and book counterparts, has a smaller role in the show.
  • The Diss Track: In "Playing the Game", Jane and Michael's Living Toys berate them for playing too rough with them, even at one point singing that they "don't deserve fun".
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Banks family is very much one. George Banks is unable to communicate with his family, Winifred struggles with her role in both the family and in society, and Jane and Michael are seemingly nasty kids who have send many a nanny packing.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The original London production had numerous differences to the Broadway production (and subsequent productions). These changes were added back into the London show not too long after the Broadway premiere:
    • "Jolly Holiday" featured a much more muted transformation of the park. On Broadway and in future productions, the park becomes much more colorful than it starts out.
    • Before arriving at Mrs. Corry's shop, the park transformed into a street market, where Mary and the children run into Bert. His slang frustrates Jane, to which Mary Poppins asks whether how a person speaks or what they have to say is more important. The marketplace patrons stop speaking, which then leads to Mrs. Corry's shop. In later productions, Mary Poppins, the children and Bert head straight for Mrs. Corry's shop.
    • The second half of "Anything Can Happen" featured a backdrop of lamplighters on ladders, putting the stars up in the sky (a Mythology Gag referencing the first Mary Poppins book). This was replaced by a simpler star set piece with the focus on a giant replica of Mary Poppins' umbrella.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: George Banks is a man Married to the Job and emotionally distant from his wife and children. By the end of the show, he has reconnected with them and realized the true value of family.
  • Foul Medicine: Miss Andrew's main shtick is feeding the children she nannies "brimstone and treacle"; a medicine that gives off smoke, smells terrible, and apparently tastes even worse.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Von Hussler's proposal turns out to be one of these. After a thought provoking question from Jane, George turns down his offer in favor of a more modest factory proposal from Mr. Northbrook. This leads to George getting suspended from the bank at first, while their rival bank seemed to hit a goldmine. This backfires in the long run, as Von Hussler managed to screw over the other bank. George's act of kindness ended up saving his bank from financial ruin.
  • Guardian Angel: Bert describes he and his fellow chimney sweeps as such, watching over families on the rooftops of London.
  • Happily Married: Subverted. Winifred struggles with her role simply being Mrs. Banks. By the end, they're once again a happy couple.
  • Hate Sink: Miss Andrew. Not only does she say the kids are rude note , she also punishes children with Brimstone and Treacle (a parallel to Mary Poppins' "Spoonful of Sugar," but much more unpleasant) to get them in line. What makes it even worse is that she was George's nanny when he was young, with the implication that he was traumatized by his upbringing. She's brought back as a surprise by Winifred to please her husband, after Mary Poppins departs. The others, expecting Poppins' return, are disappointed in their new visitor. Once Mary Poppins does come back, she takes on Miss Andrew, giving her a taste of her own medicine and sent off.
  • Homeless Pigeon Person: The Bird Woman, who Mary Poppins and the children meet after visiting the bank.
  • Jaw Drop: When Michael sees Mary Poppins for the first time:
    Mary Poppins: Close your mouth please, Michael. We are not a codfish.
    • Hilariously echoed when George gets a massive promotion at the bank:
      Winifred: Close your mouth please, George. We are not a codfish.
  • Jobless Parent Drama:
    • George gets suspended from his job at the bank towards the end of Act 1 and could possibly get sacked. When Winifred asks about this in Act 2, he worries about how everything will fall apart if he loses his job.
      George: Winifred, if I am to be dismissed by the bank, we'll be destitute. The servants will leave, the house will be reposessed; and we'll be sitting with the children outside on the frosty kerbside.
      Winifred: Then we'll still have what matters most. The children and each other.
  • Joker Jury: The toys who put the children on trial in "Temper, Temper".
  • Living Statue: Mary Poppins makes a statue of Neleus in the park come to life and befriend the children.
  • Meaningful Name: Mr. Banks (who works in a bank) and canon-foreigner Von Hussler.
  • Musical Chores: "A Spoonful of Sugar" is sung while Mary Poppins and the Banks children tidy up the kitchen.
  • Neologism: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," which Mary Poppins makes up on the spot at Mrs. Corry's Conversation Shop. Mary, Bert, and Mrs. Corry then sing about how the word could have impacted various groups throughout history from stone-age cavemen and the Druids to the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
    Mary Poppins: I'm sure the Roman Empire only entered the abyss
    Because those Latin scholars never had a word like this
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: George Banks takes a chance on Northbrook's factory project instead of Von Hussler's financial scheme. This gets him suspended from the bank without pay. This is ultimately subverted. When he returns to the bank, it's revealed that this action has instead made the bank millions and kept them out of hot water.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When Mrs. Banks talks about Michael's love of astronomy, Mr. Banks acknowledges that he too loved it when he was young, but it was "beaten out of [him]" by Miss Andrew.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Mr. Banks (order) vs. Mary Poppins (chaos). The trope is played with in that Mary behaves like a very order-oriented person even as she fills people's lives with delightful chaos.
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: Mr. Banks is about to draft an advertisement for a nanny to put in the newspaper, but his kids bring their own advertisement for a nanny. When Mr. Banks finds out that the kids' ideas of what traits the nanny should have are completely opposite to the traits he thinks the nanny should have, he tears up the kids' draft in disdain.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: In addition to adapting the film, the show takes inspiration from the eight Mary Poppins books.
  • Precision F-Strike: Michael gives one in the middle of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" after Mary Poppins says it in reverse:
    Michael: She may be tricky, but she's bloody good!
  • Quarreling Song: A majority of "Brimstone and Treacle, Part 2" features Mary Poppins and Miss Andrew dueling in song:
    Miss Andrew: I brought up their father
    Mary Poppins: Well, that I don't doubt. You must be so proud at the way he turned out
    Miss Andrew: A shining example, a pillar
    Mary Poppins: A post! They all have their problems, but him more than most
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mr. Banks does this when he returns to the bank, assuming he's about to be fired. There's one twist though: Mr. Banks doesn't lose his job in the end. Instead, the offer he turned down ruined the bank's rivals, saving their bacon in the process. The one he did approve, a factory project by Mr. Northbrook, went through and the bank is to make a fortune from it. After Winifred arrives to support him, he gets promoted to Senior Manager at quadruple his current salary. He accepts the new position on the condition that his family comes first.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation
  • Scare 'Em Straight: At the end of the first act, Mary Poppins brings Jane and Michael's toys to life in the number "Playing the Game" (and its predecessor "Temper, Temper") to teach a lesson in treating their belongings, providing invoked Nightmare Fuel for the two Banks children.
  • Sdrawkcab Speech: During "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," Mary Poppins says it in reverse.
    Mary Poppins: You know, you can say it backwards, which is suoicodilaipxecitsiligarfilacrepus!
  • Setting Update: Inverted, since the books took place in The '30s. Much like the film, the show takes place in Edwardian London.
  • Ship Tease: Mary and Bert have this. This time around, Mary is much more aware of Bert's feelings towards her, but remains non-committal throughout most of the show. Before she leaves at the end of Act 2, she gives Bert a kiss goodbye.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Mary can talk to animals, per the novels. Bert is also able to talk to Ms. Lark's dog Willoughby. She uses it to her advantage to free Miss Andrew's lark Caruso from his cage.
  • Spelling Song: "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" features a segment where the cast spells it out, physically and verbally.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Used at the beginning to indicate trouble in the Banks family.
  • Toy-Based Characterization: Jane and Michael are initially Bratty Half Pints, so they throw their toys around aggressively. To remedy this, Mary brings the toys to life and they tell them off in song.
  • Villain Song: "Brimstone and Treacle."
  • The World Is Just Awesome: "Anything Can Happen"