Well, Mary Poppins is kind of a bitch.
I loved the movie growing up. I mean, Julie Andrews + Dick Van Dyke’s famously terrible Cockney accent + carousel horses that hover and penguins that dance and chimneys and stuff? Win all around, right? So, though I wasn’t exactly giddy about the tour production of Mary Poppins, I was optimistic, I suppose? Or optimistic enough?
Well… the set was neat. (Though I have an irrational dislike of shows that feel compelled to project the title on the main curtain before the show and at intermission. Like we didn’t already know what we were there to see? Like we just walked into a ~mystery musical~? Like I said, though, irrational.) The orchestra played nicely, the lights were good?
But I just have weird issues with the adaptation. I Wikipedia’d the books, and there seem to be things in the book (Mrs. Corry, the statues) that weren’t in the Disney film. I… actually kind of like it better that way. I love the random-ass whimsy of the movie, and I love those damn dancing penguins. I didn’t need the Jamaican woman leading a cast of calculatedly diverse Emerald City-but-orange ripoffs in boppetybopbopwordstime! And I didn’t need the scene where a cast of statues, played by people in skintight gray body suits and with only gray leaves covering their bits, danced around with the children. Sketch.
Oh, and speaking of sketch? The scene with Jane and Michael’s toys coming to life and then leaving? I get the ~moral message~ or whatever. Be nice to your toys. (Although, I admit, like the utter obsessive dork I am, all I could really think about was Dollhouse 2×04 “Belonging,” and Adelle (Olivia Williams) and her speech to Topher (Fran Kranz): “The cold reality is that everyone here was chosen because their morals had been compromised in some way. Everyone except you, Topher. You were chosen because you had no morals. You had always thought of people as playthings. This is not a judgement. You always take good care of your toys. But you’re going to have to let this one go. “ Yes. I am a dork.)
I think if Mary Poppins just came out and admitted that, dammit, she was gonna be an Adelle HBIC, she’d bother me less. But of course she’s a children’s heroine, so she can’t come out and do that. She has to be all passive-aggressive. And I’m actually fairly sure I would come to this conclusion if I watched the movie again, too. It’s like when as a mostly-grownup you watch FernGully and go “holywtfenvironmentalfable!!!” But it’s the same issue I have with Angel and Bill Compton trying to deny their vampire nature and be “good.” I’d honestly rather see someone embrace the dark and go full-on (bitch, in Mary Poppins’ case) than watch them flounder in the land of not quite cutting it.
And Mary Poppins is hugely passive-aggressive. The song “Practically Perfect,” though obviously derived from dialogue in the film and presumably in the books, struck me as heinous. She’s just walking in being all “tra la la, look at me, I’m so great, you’re stupid bitch children” but she’s not just coming out and saying so, either.
Although the evil nanny wasn’t particularly admirable either. There was nothing delicious about her evil, just creepy and borderline-child abusive. Singing about poisoning the children in her all-black outfit. Not cool. (Why was it that all of the non-Mary nannies wore only black? Were they all widows? Or just trying to look sinister?) Also not cool was Mary swooping in, and the kids are going YAY OUR SAVIOR but, y’know… she’s there to IMPRISON EVIL NANNY IN A HUMAN-SIZED BIRDCAGE AND SEND HER TO THE NANNY HELL IN THE CUPBOARD UNDER THE STAIRS?
That is not okay. Just… no.
And on the subject of not okay, let me just get my minor rant about Mrs. Banks out of the way. Her whole thing was her husband apparently wanted to be “society” and in with the “right people” (not surprising for the day) but she’d been an actress (what? Though when the chimney sweeps… broke into the house?… she was totally flirting with like three of them) so she wasn’t in “society” properly, and no matter how hard she tried she sort of failed. But her big ballad was about… “Being Mrs. Banks.” And her moment of revelation was going “I’m going to be happy to be your wife now! I shall do whatever you’d like me to do! It will be splendid BEING YOUR WIFE!” I don’t have any issues with happy marriage, but come on, Mrs. Banks. Way to set feminism back like decades in a sentence.
Also, from a completely technical standpoint, holy crap, people. Did you even have a dialect coach? Bert’s accent was better than Dick Van Dyke’s was in the film, I guess, but at least Dick Van Dyke’s was consistently bad. This guy kept slipping in and out of the Cockney, and he didn’t even slip into RP or something, he just slipped into… normal talking. The worst was in a song when he was singing, “blah blah blah blah wæɪə blah blah blah blah dəɪ.” ‘Way’ and ‘day’ are words that technically rhyme, and ought to. He pronounced ‘way’ with the correct Cockney vowel substitutions, but he pronounced ‘day’ with an American/neutral accent. Half the time, Mary didn’t even try to have an accent, nor did Mrs. Banks; honestly, the children were the most consistent. And that’s a little sad.
Mostly, I’m just sad that there were no dancing penguins, though.
–your fangirl heroine.