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As any good Mary Poppins fan will tell you, when the wind
shifts from the East to the West, it's then time for that practically perfect
nanny to pack up her carpet bag and fly off for parts unknown.
Well, I'm not sure which way the wind is blowing in New
York City these days. But since Disney and Cameron
Mackintosh's Mary Poppins will be folding its giant, revolving umbrella this
Sunday afternoon to make room for Aladdin (which is expected to fly into the
New Amsterdam for Spring of 2014), I thought that it might be interesting to
talk with someone who'd long been associated with this acclaimed production. Which
is why I reached out to Anthony Lyn, the associate director of this Broadway
show as well as director of its national tour. Who along with music
supervisor David Caddick has been part of the Poppins creative team ever
since this stage show was first conceived back in the early 2000s.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
"People these days forget about all of the behind-the-scenes
effort it took to actually make the stage version of Mary Poppins happen. I
mean, The Walt Disney Company had its Academy Award-winning movie version
the P.L. Travers books. And since that film had all of those great Sherman
Brothers songs, that movie seemed like a natural to transfer to the stage,"
Lyn explained. "The only problem was when Disney's lawyers were
negotiating with Ms. Travers to get the movie rights to the books they
neglected to secure the stage rights at the same time."
And when Disney representatives approached Pamela in the
late 1980s / early 1990s with the hope of then securing the stage rights to
Mary Poppins after the fact, Ms. Travers (who wasn't exactly subtle when it
came to expressing her dislike of Disney's movie version of her stories) repeatedly
rejected their requests. She insisted that when Mary Poppins was finally done
for the stage, it would be by an English creative team this time around. Not a
bunch of Americans.
(L to R) Richard M. Sherman, Julie Andrews and Richard B. Sherman at the 37th Academy Awards with the Oscars that they won for "Mary Poppins." CopyrightAcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All rights reserved
"That's what gave Sir Cameron the inside track when it
came to securing the stage rights for Mary Poppins in 1993. He agreed to Ms. Travers'
terms. That whenever a stage version of her books was ultimately produced,
Mackintosh promised to assemble an all-English creative team," Anthony
said. "More importantly, the version of Mary Poppins which appeared in
this play would be much more like this character appeared in the books, rather
than the way that Julie Andrews played this character in the movie."
Mind you, after Pamela passed away in April of 1996 at the
ripe old age of 96, Cameron found himself in kind of a conundrum. He had the
stage rights to Mary Poppins. But without those Sherman Brothers songs from the
movie that theater-goers knew and loved so well, it was highly doubtful that
the ticket-buying public would ever enthusiastically embrace a stage version of
Travers' stories. Meanwhile, The Walt Disney Company had the rights to this
music all locked up (not to mention a new theatrical division that had already
proven it could produce and promote highly successful musicals for the stage) but
no legal way to proceed with a Broadway production of Poppins.
This creative stalemate continued for five years until
... Until what? What was it exactly (or -- better yet -- who was it) that finally broke the "Mary Poppins" stalemate between The Walt Disney Company and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd.? To get the answer to that question, you can either click on the headline above or follow this link directly over to the Huffington Post's Entertainment section: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-hill/mary-poppins-musical_b_2783080.html
Jim, 'Poppins' has one of the most seriously sophisticated stages I can recall on Broadway. Do you expect that the new productions will be majorly toned down, possibly to the point of having to change story elements to go along with the staging changes? When the show comes to my local civic light opera, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting to see Bert walking on the ceiling!