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Disney Legend Dick Van Dyke pops in on LA’s production of “Mary Poppins”

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Disney Legend Dick Van Dyke pops in on LA’s production of “Mary Poppins”

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This past Friday night, Anthony Lyn -- the director of the North American touring company of Disney & Cameron Mackintosh’s “Mary Poppins” – strode onstage at LA’s Ahmanson Theatre and said that he had a few brief announcements to make before that performance could get underway.

First of all, Lyn wanted to make the audience aware that Richard M. Sherman was in the house. As one half of the Sherman Brothers songwriting team got to his feet, this Academy Award-winner received a nice round of applause from all those seated in the hall.

Richard M. Sherman waves to the crowd at a special performance to Disney's stage musical Mary Poppins in LA
Richard M. Sherman waves to the crowd at the Ahmanson Theatre.
Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging. All Rights Reserved

Once Richard was seated again, Anthony continued. Drawing the audience’s attention to an insert which had been placed in their program. Which read:

“At tonight’s performance, the role of Mr. Dawes Senior will be played by Navckid Keyd”

There was then this audible gasp in the Ahmanson. As all of the Disneyana buffs who had come to take part in that evening’s D23 event, “A Practically Perfect Night of Surprises,” suddenly recognized that name.

You see, Navckid Keyd was the fake name that Walt Disney & Dick Van Dyke cooked up in order to hide the fact that this 1960s sitcom star was actually playing two roles in the film verson of "Mary Poppins” : Bert the busker / screever / chimney sweep as well as the incredibly elderly Mr. Dawes Senior (Truth be told, Navckid Keyd is the vowels & consonants from Mr. Van Dyke’s own name scrambled about).

Dick Van Dyke as he appeared in the 1964 Disney movie "Mary Poppins"
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Anyway … Realizing that a good part of the audience was now in on the gag, Lyn officially announced that – for one night only – Dick Van Dyke would be joining the cast of the stage version of “Mary Poppins.” That this Emmy Award-winner would then be making a cameo appearance in the show, recreating the creaky old banker that he had played in this Academy Award-winning film from 1964.

How exactly did this idea come about? I’m told that it dates back to November 15th of last year. When Dick (who had never seen the stage version of “Mary Poppins” up until that point) attended the LA premiere of this show. And Van Dyke was supposedly so taken with this musical’s talented young cast as well as the bold new spin that Disney Theatrical had put on P.L. Traversstories that – when someone from Publicity called, suggesting that Dick do a cameo – he immediately said “Yes.”

Dick Van Dyke re[rised his role as the bank president in a special performance of the stage musical Mary Poppins in LA
Dick Van Dyke (star of the original Disney motion picture) makes a guest appearance
in the national tour of the Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production of "Mary Poppins."
Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging. All Rights Reserved

Mind you, Van Dyke wasn’t actually paid for this appearance. As he mentioned in a post-show interview, Dick did his cameo in the stage musical version of “Mary Poppins” to help raise funds / awareness for LA’s Midnight Mission.

In fact, 8 lucky fans on Friday night got the ultimate Dick Van Dyke experience. For a contribution of $2500, they got to have dinner with this legendary performer at Morton’s The Steakhouse. Where Van Dyke then regaled them with tales from his storied career before the entire group was then whisked via limo over to the theatre just in time for “Mary Poppins” 8 p.m. curtain.

Now as to how Mr. Van Dyke got ready for his cameo in this stage musical, there was a week of rehearsals at the Ahmanson. Where this new Mr. Dawes material that Dick would be performing was folded in to the show’s big second act number, “Anything Can Happen (If You Let it).”

Dick Van Dyke rehearses for a performance of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's "Mary Poppins"
Dick Van Dyke practices during the rehearsal for a performance of
Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's "Mary Poppins."
Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging. All Rights Reserved

And as you can see from these rehearsal photographs, Van Dyke had a grand old time working with this group of young performers. Most of whom had grown up watching Dick play Bert on their DVD or VHS version of “Mary Poppins.”

Anywho … Friday night arrives. And at around 10:15 p.m., the lights came up on the show’s Bank set. As the Bank Chairman and his clerks stood at the ready, an announcement was made: “Mr. Dawes has arrived.” With that, the double doors at the back of the set were pulled open. And there stood a very hunched-over Dick Van Dyke. And the hall then interrupted in cheers.

To his credit, Van Dyke recreated much of Mr. Dawes’ schtick from the 1964 film. His difficulty in getting down off of that step. His deafness. But Dick also came up with some funny new bits of business that this character could do in the stage version of "Mary Poppins".

Dick Van Dyke recreates some of his classic comic moves from the 1964 film "Mary Poppins"
Dick Van Dyke recreates some of his classic moves from the 1964 Academy
Award-winning  film. Photo by Ryan Miller/ Capture Imaging. All Rights Reserved

EX: After Mr. Banks entered and began getting grilled by the Chairman, Van Dyke mimed taking a piece of gum out of his mouth. And then – after obviously thinking about how he could dispose of this wad – he dropped the gum into the ear trumpet of the elderly clerk standing right next to him. Which got a huge laugh from the audience.

But – beyond that – Dick didn’t do anything to upstage the other performers in this show. His elderly Mr. Dawes was just one of a sea of clerks that were on stage during this part of “Mary Poppins.” So his head swiveled when their heads swiveled, and he swayed when the rest of the cast swayed.

And then the really magical moment happened. As the Chairman of the Bank implored upon Mr. Banks to “ … just give us the word,” Van Dyke’s Mr. Dawes barked “Just give us the bloody word!” Which is when Karl Kenzler then launched into a reprise of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Dick Van Dyke and Karl Menzler practice their Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious dance
Dick Van Dyke and Karl Kenzler practice their
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” dance.
Photo by Ryan Miller/ Capture Imagining.
All Rights Reserved

Now normally Kenzler performs this dance alone. But not on Friday night. As Mr. Banks began singing this Sherman Bros. nonsense song, Dick stepped on over toward Karl. And – while still in character as this incredibly ancient banker – Van Dyke energetically danced and sang “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with Kenzler.

With that, the audience at the Ahmanson pretty much lost its minds. The cheers & applause was deafening. And as this brief song & dance number ended, Dick & Karl stood there beaming. Kenzler, in particular, had this totally joyous look on his face. As if to say “I can’t believe that I just got to sing & dance with Dick Van Dyke.”

Dick Van Dyke and Karl Menzler live on stage performing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious at a special performance of Mary Poppins in LA
Dick Van Dyke and Karl Kenzler live on stage performing
Photo by Ryan Miller/ Capture Imagining. All Rights Reserved

Indeed, there were a lot of performers onstage Friday night who – at least for a moment or two – broke character during this sequence in the show. Carter Thomas (i.e. the young man who played Michael Banks at this performance) just couldn’t take his eyes off Van Dyke while this entertainment legend was on stage. Carter also made no effort to hide the big silly grin on his face as he watched Dick go through all of his old man schtick.

Anyhow … As you might expect, Van Dyke got a huge round of applause at that night’s curtain call. And in “Mary Poppins” post-show Q & A session (an event that was a D23 exclusive perk, by the way), this veteran performer went out of his way to praise the show’s cast. Saying how much he’d enjoyed working with this talented young group of performers from Disney & Cameron Mackintosh's production.

“Be sure and tell your friends to come out and see this wonderful show, “ Dick enthused.

Gavin Lee and Ashley Brown pose with special guest star Dick Van Dyke backstage after a performance of "Mary Poppins" at LA's Ahmanson Theatre
Cast members Gavin Lee (L) and Ashley Brown (R) pose with guest star Dick Van
Dyke (Middle) backstage after a performance of Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's
"Mary Poppins" at LA's Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

“Mary Poppins” plays its final performance at LA’s Ahmanson Theatre on February 7th before the North American tour of this Disney & Cameron Mackintosh production moves on to the ASU Gammage Theatre in Tempe, AZ. Where it then begins a 18-day-long stint.

For further information on the touring version of this acclaimed stage musical, please click on this link.

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  • OHHHH MANNNN....how I wish I had been there! What a truly magical moment it must have been!

    Thanks for the story, Jim. What an incredible memory for the cast of that wonderful show!

  • That really is a wonderful story. Dick Van Dyke is a very sweet, classy gentleman for making such a memorable evening for all in attendance. It's also great to know that he's still so lively so many years after playing Bert in the Disney classic film!

  • Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. For starters, he discusses why the Imagineers never got to build a “Pocahontas” –themed Friendly Indian Village along the Rivers of America

  • That is amazing! I wish I had seen that!! Dick Van Dyke is one of my favorite actors!!

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