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Anthony Lyn makes sure that Disney & Cameron Mackintosh's long-running musical stays Poppin' Fresh

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Anthony Lyn makes sure that Disney & Cameron Mackintosh's long-running musical stays Poppin' Fresh

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2012 is already shaping up to be a banner year for the Disney Theatrical Group. What with the upcoming limited Broadway engagement for "Newsies."  

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

On the heels of its highly acclaimed pilot production at the Paper Mill Playhouse earlier this year, "Newsies" will be presented at the Nederlander Theatre on West 41st Street March 15th - June 10, 2012. And given that there seem to be thousands of fans of this 1992 Walt Disney Pictures release who are anxious to see what the Broadway version of this movie musical will be like ... Well, if you're planning on snagging some tickets to "Newsies," you'd better do it as soon as they go on sale. Which is January 30th at 10 a.m.

Mind you, "Newsies" isn't the only new show that the Mouse had a hand in which will be coming to Broadway in 2012. Following its sold-out off-Broadway run earlier this year at the New York Theatre Workshop, "Peter and the Starcatcher" (which Disney Theatrical Productions developed from Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's popular children's novel) will be flying back into the Big Apple next year. Produced by Nancy Nagel Gibbs and  Greg Schaffert, this Peter Pan prequel will be presented at some yet-to-be-determined theater.

The Broadway company of "Disney's The Lion King" gathers onstage at the Minskoff
Theatre to celebrate this show's 14th anniversary. Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

But before we say "Goodbye" to 2011 and "Hello" to 2012, it's worth noting here that Disney Theatrical Group's other shows also celebrated some significant milestones over the past year. What with the Tony Award-winning musical, "Disney's The Lion King" celebrating the 14th anniversary of its opening on Broadway November 13th.   

And just down the street from the Minskoff, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's "Mary Poppins" actually blew past two significant milestones of its own in the past four months. On September 4th, this show presented its 2000th performance on Broadway.  And on November 16th, "Mary Poppins" celebrated the fifth anniversary of its opening in NYC.

The cast of "Mary Poppins" gets ready to cut the cake commemorating this musical's
2000th performance on Broadway. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

And - of course - Mickey's merry marketeers took advantage of these two milestones to then get the Broadway production of "Mary Poppins" some additional publicity. There were the NYC-specific stunts like turning the Empire State Building Mary-Poppins-Blue ...

... on November 15th to commemorate this Disney and Cameron Mackintosh show's 5th anniversary on Broadway. Not to mention having Mary herself appear on video screens inside of cabs driving all over the city during Xmas ...

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... to wish New Yorkers & tourists alike a Jolly Holiday.

And to make sure that people were aware on a national level that "Mary Poppins" was observing the 5th anniversary on the opening of this Broadway musical, the Disney Theatrical Group reached out to its corporate partners over at ABC. Who then arranged to have "Good Morning America" special correspondent Cameron Mathison come by the New Amsterdam Theatre. Where - as part of the debut of his new entertainment news segment, "Cam's Cam-eo," - Mathison was made up to look like a chimney sweep and then sent out onstage to dance & sing in that performance of "Step In Time."

(L to R) Case Dillard [Bert at that evening's performance], "All My Children" star Susan
Lucci, Steffanie Leigh [Mary Poppins] and Cameron Mathison. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And Cameron wasn't the only ABC star to cameo in "Mary Poppins" over the past two months. Meredith Vieira also did a stint as a sweep before she then invited Steffanie Leigh & Gavin Lee to come appear on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." Where these two Broadway stars then won over $20,000 for the Actor's Fund.

Steffanie Leigh, Gavin Lee and Meredith Vieira on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
Copyright American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

But there's more to keeping a long-running show like "Mary Poppins" popular with the ticket-buying public than just clever publicity stunts. Given that the Disney Theatrical Group now has three different productions (i.e. The Broadway company, the North American tour [which continues at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre through January 8th before then moving on to Mexico City] and the Australian production [which opens at the Lyric Theatre in Brisbane this Friday]) ... Well, it's important that each of these versions of "Mary Poppins" maintain the same level of high quality that theatre goers typically associate with Disney and Cameron Mackintosh productions.

Which is where Anthony Lyn comes in. As the "Mary Poppins" tour director as well as being the current director of the long-running Broadway version of this show ... Lyn probably wishes that he could borrow Mary's umbrella as he regularly travels the world. Making sure that each and every production of this Disney and Cameron Mackintosh musical stays (forgive the Pillsbury-related joke here) Poppin' Fresh.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Given that we have multiple sets of child performers in this show playing the roles of Jane and Michael ... Well, it's understandable that we regularly have to make changes to the cast of 'Mary Poppins,' " Lyn explained. "But what's great about working for Disney and Cameron Mackintosh is that they're honestly not interested in maintaining the status quo with a long-running show like this. These are two companies that actively go out of their ways to find new ways to make their shows better."

In the case of "Poppins," this wasn't just something that Disney and Cameron Mackintosh did as "Mary Poppins" was being readied for its transfer from the West End to Broadway. No, Anthony insists that - with each new production of this musical - they've made tweaks & changes that then tightened this show, making it an overall better evening of theater.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Take - for example - the 'Jolly Holiday' number. This was already a showstopper in the version of "Mary Poppins' that we mounted back in the UK. But Richard Eyre thought that we could make 'Jolly Holiday' even more of a crowd pleaser for the New York production." Lyn continued. "And since Disney and Cameron completely supported Richard with this decision, that's just what we did. We totally reconcieved that number with new sets & new costumes. And based on the way that the Broadway audiences reacted, that change was totally worth the extra effort and expense."

Which would have been enough for a normal set of theatrical producers. But Disney and Cameron Mackintosh aren't normal theatrical producers. So when the North American tour of "Mary Poppins" was being put together, with Anthony's help, they made even more tweaks to this show. Continuing to plus "Jolly Holiday" as well as giving Mary a brand-new number, "Playing the Game,"  to perform in  the first act in place of the somewhat problematic "Temper Temper."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"And given how well these changes went over with the audiences who caught the North American tour ... Well, we knew that we then had to incorporate these changes into the Broadway version of 'Mary Poppins.' So that the people who were seeing this musical in NYC were then getting the very best version of this show," Lyn said. "And we're still continuing this tradition of plussing 'Poppins.' There are changes that we made for the Australian production that we've since folded into the Broadway version. It just goes on & on & on."

So if you thought that the Broadway production of "Mary Poppins" was practically perfect the last time that you saw it, now might be an excellent time to circle back on the New Amsterdam Theatre and see the many ways - both big & small - that Lyn & his team have plussed this musical over the past five years, as they make sure that the "Mary" which NYC audiences get to see is always as Poppin' Fresh as she can possibly be.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So how many of you out there saw the original Broadway version of "Mary Poppins" (or - better yet - the West End production) & has since seen the North American touring company and/or the Australian version of this show? If so, what do you think of the changes that have been made to this Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production? Is there something that you now miss that was taken out of this musical? Or is there a change that has been made to this show which you now think significantly improves "Poppins" ?

Your thoughts?

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And as Mary points out in the above photo, the holiday season is drawing to a close, folks. And if you'd like to demonstrate how much you've enjoyed the past year's worth of stories, feel free to toss a few tuppences into JHM's new tip jar.

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  • Nice!!! I catched the North American Tour in San Diego last August and thought it was truly amazing :). I knew Poppins was going to be in Mexico City next year, however I did not know  it was going to be the North American Tour... does that mean it will be presented in English?...

  • Yes Gerardo, the play will be presented in English. And supposedly, Morris Gilbert wants to bring it, with Ocesa Theatre, late next year... (Morris confirmed this almost a year ago).

  • Nice! Thanks for the info Alex :)

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