IT'S THAT POPPINS WOMAN!! SHE DID IT!! @ 2 February 2009 05:16 PM
When we recently went to see Walt Disney's landmark 1964 musical fantasy transformed into a Broadway musical, I approached it much the same as when I first saw Superman the Movie in 1978. The earlier version was such a part of so many lives it seemed inconceivable that anyone could make it work as a live musical.
Superman managed to succeed beyond expectations, and so does Mary Poppins on Broadway. The movie and the show are related yet compliment each other. Not an easy task.
How this was accomplished is chronicled in a new documentary on the new two-disc Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition DVD.
The original stage stars, Ashley Brown (who knew she wasn't really English?) and Gavin Lee discuss the process from audition to production, along with the talented artists who brought Poppins alive on stage.
Well worth the DVD set alone is the ENTIRE "Step in Time" show-stopper filmed right from the stage, complete with one of the most talked about marvels in the show: Bert's miraculous dance around and over the stage proscenium. Lee explains the evolution of the stunt in the accompanying documentary.
We also were able to glimpse one of the sweeps in "Step in Time," the immensely talented Sean McCourt, who plays several roles in the stage Poppins as he did for years in Wicked. We were fortunate enough to learn of his contributions from a backstage Wicked presentation he hosted with equally gifted colleague Anthony Galde, who still plays multiple roles in that show.
The most warmhearted and reassuring thing about the new 45th Anniversary bomus material is the generous attention afforded to the cooperative relationship between Richard M. Sherman and the new songwriters, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Robert Sherman's health prevents the activity).
And while you may think it's a no-brainer that Mr. Sherman was included to some extent, consider that after the duo successfully wrote songs for The Tigger Movie, they were summarily replaced for the next Pooh film. In the case of Poppins, clearly every courtesy was accorded the score and the two legends who created it. It's especially wonderful to see all three songwriters on screen, two in England, one in California, singing together.
For even more detail about the story of the Poppins flight from book to screen to stage, take a look at the massive and beautiful book co-written by expert historian Brian Sibley, Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It.
Magnificent stage artwork from the stage version rounds out the new bonus material on the recent DVD, for the info of those who have the earlier versions. Most everything contained in the 40th anniversary edition is still here except for a game and a piece-by-piece reconstruction of a "Jolly Holiday" excerpt.
But it still includes the wonderful audio commentary with Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke and Richard Sherman -- and who wouldn't want to "watch" the movie with them? My only quibble: a guide folder to the discs would have been nice.
And if you still have the single-disc Gold Classic edition, you may want to keep that one because it's the only one with the complete "Hollywood Goes to a World Premiere," a short theatrical film with delightfully cheesy narration ("the vivacious Annette!") as well as the after party audio material. The newer two releases use this footage for a similar bonus, but it's nice to have the original.
(By the way, the connection between Superman and Mary Poppins may have seemed a strange juxtaposition, but both of them not only can fly, but they spin around real fast, too!)
Whether you feel the new release is worth your while or not, I am pleased to see Mary Poppins reissued as often as possible. This is a very important film, not a relic of the past, and reissuing brings it to the public's attention each time and hopefully introduces it to another legion of fans. Here's to keeping everything higgledy-piggeldy around here!
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