The Many Faces of Mary Poppins

The Broadway Tour of Mary Poppins visited New Orleans’ Mahalia Jackson Theatre for a magical week that doubled as an early Christmas treat. It presented a unique opportunity for this writer, who lived near New York City and has now experienced the musical’s Broadway and Tour productions.

Movie vs Stage Productions

Fans familiar with Disney’s 1964 hit starring Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke might approach the Broadway version with skepticism. It’s not a direct translation of the film. Though popular favourites such as “Jolly Holiday” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” continue to capture Mary’s magical nature, Broadway either extends or modifies the original songs.

Given the individual challenges of each medium, these changes represent more of a difference in interpretation than a crime against the film. A similar approach occurs with film adaptions of novels.

The stage musical blends the film’s storyline with other unused content from P.L. Travers’ series in a way that, despite certain critics’ reviews, still achieves the desired outcome: entertaining audiences.

NYC vs Tour

What’s interesting about Tour versus Broadway is that the latter has stable stage sets. Tour, on the other hand, relies on sets being transportable. For a magical show like Mary Poppins, certain backstage rigging must be altered for more temporary setups and easier strikes.

Other changes from the NYC Broadway version include a less-embellished upside-down tap dance from the actor cast as Bert, and a reversion to the song “Playing the Game,” from the production’s premiere days. The older song was later revised into “Temper, Temper.” Both songs engage Jane and Michael’s neglect of their toys, though “Playing the Game” rings more like a passive lullaby than an interactive nightmare lesson in responsibility.

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