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"Anything Can Happen If You Let It" chronicles Mary Poppins' journey from page to stage

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"Anything Can Happen If You Let It" chronicles Mary Poppins' journey from page to stage

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Do you want the Disneyana fan on your holiday shopping list to have a very "Mary" Christmas? Then be sure and pick them up a copy of Brian Sibley & Michael Lassell's "Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It" (Disney Editions, December 2007).

Subtitled "The Story Behind the Journey from Books to Broadway," this artfully designed volume isn't actually a single book. But -- rather -- a trio of "Mary Poppins" -related volumes encased in a single red-and-gold trifold.

The center most book of this trio has a cover that reads "If You want to find Cherry Tree Lane ..." Inside, you'll find Brian & Michael's making-of book, which does a wonderful job of mapping out the entire arc of the "Mary Poppins" phenomenon. From P.L. Travers' best-selling books of the 1930s to Walt Disney's dogged two decade-long pursuit of the film rights to the stage show, it's all here.


 Copyright 2007 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

What's particularly nice about this part of "Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen if You Let It" is that Sibley & Lassell don't mince words. They let you know right up front about how protective Ms. Travers was of Mary Poppins as well as how determined Walt Disney was to transform P.L.'s character into something that would appeal to a mainstream movie-going audience. And out of this extremely combative collaboration came the Academy Award-winning film.

Of course, recognizing that a number of Disney-related books have already written in great detail about "Mary Poppins" (the movie), Brian & Michael go out of their way to try & find stories that haven't been told yet about the making of this landmark motion picture. By burrowing down deep into the Archives at Walt Disney Studios, they find rather unique pieces to use as illustrations. Like this pair of designs & fabric samples for Mary & Bert's costumes ...

 
Copyright 2007 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

... or this concept drawing for the interior of the Banks home.

 
Copyright 2007 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

What's kind of intriguing about that sketch is that it then provides a stepping stone to the portion of "Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It" that covers the development of the stage version of this show. Where Cameron Mackintosh and Thomas Schumacher really struggled to come up with a way to tell the story of "Mary Poppins" onstage that kept the very best elements of the Disney film while -- at the same time -- stayed that much more faithful to P.L. Travers' own interpretation of these characters.

Scenic designer Bob Crowley did what he could to bridge these two different worlds. He first roughed out a sketch of what he thought the stage version of 17 Cherry Tree Lane to look like ...


 Copyright 2007 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

... Crowley then added to the fun by making "Mary Poppins" main set piece basically this enormous version of the sort of dollhouse that one might expect to find in Jane & Michael's nursery.


  Copyright 2007 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, one of the more enjoyable aspects of "Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It" is that it gives you a brief glimpse of the upcoming touring version of this acclaimed stage show. The model of the Banks home shown below was actually designed by Bob for the touring version of "Mary Poppins." With the British tour debuting in Plymouth in June of 2008, while the North American tour of "Mary Poppins" gets underway in Chicago in March of 2009.


Copyright 2007 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

As for the other books included in this entertaining trifold, one features a colorful selection of photographs from the Broadway version of "Mary Poppins." Here you see Mary, Bert and the Queen dancing together in that show's "Jolly Holiday" sequence.


Copyright 2007 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

The other book is basically Bob Crowley's design folio for "Mary Poppins." Which features a number of costume concepts that didn't make it into the final version of the stage show. Like the many odd & whimsical objects that the Palace Guardsmen could have kept hidden under their busbies.


 Copyright 2007 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

When you get right down to it, "Mary Poppins: Anything Can Happen If You Let It" does exactly what this book's subtitle says it does. It takes the reader on this very entertaining journey from the original P.L. Travers stories to the Walt Disney-produced film right straight through to the stage version of this show. And then when you factor in the elegant packaging that Gregory Wakabayashi & Clark Wakabayashi created for this trifold publication ... While this book may not be "Practically Perfect in Every Way," it is quite the eye-catching combination of elements.

So if you'd really like to learn more about Mary Poppins' " ... Journey from Books to Broadway," then maybe you should consider picking up a copy of this handsome 192-page hardcover.

Speaking of shopping ... Tis the season, folks. And if you'd like to show your appreciation for all the great stories that you regularly read on this website, then why not start out your next Amazon shopping spree by clicking on the banner above? That way, JHM gets to keep a teeny tiny chunk of whatever you spend.

Happy Holidays!

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  • Great article, Jim. Just a couple of notes on the stage show since I saw it in NYC last week. I came with some high hopes and left, well, a bit flat. I like the differences from the movie and many of the performances were spot on - but a few things dissapointed. First, and I realize Julie Andrews is hard to follow, the actress in the lead role was not very convincing. Whereas Bert, the maid and others seemed to inhabit their roles, she always seemed surprised to be there. "Feed the Birds" was done well, but other songs like "Supercali" seemed a bit contrived compared to the originals. The set piece is great and it's good overall - just don't expect The Lion King - or Beauty and the Beast for that matter.

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