I went to the theater last night and saw the Broadway version of Mary Poppins.
It was different from the movie in many ways. The best difference was not making Winifred a suffragette. When I was little I didn't know what a suffragette was. All I knew was that Sister suffragette was a fun song to sing along and was funny. As I grew and learned about the suffrage movement in Britain and what so many of the women went through the song stayed funny, but the way Winifred just turned her back on the movement because her husband suddenly realized how important his family is never sat right with me. Sometimes it really bothers me. Especially when I learned it wasn't in the books.
The reason that the suffragette stuff was added was, probably, to allow American audiences be okay with the family having a nanny. Nannies haven't ever been a common thing in the US, especially among the middle class, even the upper-middle class, but in England nannies were used by anyone who could afford one. If Mrs. Banks hadn't had an obsession that kept her out of the house all day American audience would have been left wondering why the family needed a nanny when they already had a cook and a housekeeper. Why couldn't Winifred take care of her own children?
*** Culture clash! FIGHT! ***
So, the suffragette thing was cut, thankfully. Mr. Banks pretty much declares that having a nanny is a status symbol. A way to free up his wife's time and allow her to throw parties for the "right" people. By putting this in there it shows where the older Banks's priorities lie and allow Jane and Michael a visible reason for their anger and resentment toward their nannies. They see their mother at home all day, but she doesn't spend time with them. At the same time she's conflicted because she wants to spend time with them, but she also wants to please her husband and help him in any way she can.
Other changes I liked:
The games Mary Poppins played with the kids, like Walk-in-the-Park. Walk-in-the-Park is exactly what it sounds like, Mary Poppins and the children go for a walk in the park. Michael complains because a walk in the park is not a game, at which point things begin to change, including a statue. Out comes Mary Poppins and Burt dressed up finely and they sing Jolly Holiday, with adjusted lyrics. Other games involve cleaning up the kitchen, and visiting the bank. Of course none of them are as straight forward as they seem.
I enjoyed the new supercalifragilisticexpialidocious scene and most of the changes to the song. The scene takes place in a shop where you can buy conversation. Mary Poppins only wanted an ounce, but ended up having to buy letters to find the conversation.
Changes I didn't so much care for:
"Chim Chim Cher-ee" is used a lot to transition scenes, but the new reprises seemed off. The meter didn't seem to fit properly. Maybe it was the guy playing Burt. I'm not sure. It's especially disheartening because I always wanted Burt doing more chim chim cher-ee-ing in the movie.
They cut out Mr. Banks's first song where he talks about how perfect and disciplined his life is. Yes, it was replaced with a song with a similar theme, but the new song doesn't have the same joy as the old song. In the old song you could hear how much Mr. Banks likes his life. How much he revels in the "order" he's achieved. The new song is somber and it sounds like Mr. Banks doesn't actually believe what he's singing, he just thinks it's how he should act.
The song in the bank was cut out, too. To be fair, it wouldn't have made sense anymore and I do like the bank stuff in the play, but the original bank song is so much fun and who doesn't get creeped out as the old men slowly circle Jane and Michael and then get closer and closer to the children before stealing Michael’s money. It's a spectacular scene and song in the movie that has no place in the play, but was sorely missed by me.
"Step in Time" is just as pointless in the play as it is in the movie. Sure they add some lyrics to try to make it seem like there's a message, but, like the movie, it's all about the dancing. The dancing is good in both, but it doesn't do anything for the story or for the characters. Well, maybe Mary Poppins and her need to be the best with her magical spinning, but that's it.
I've never been so touched by "Feed the Birds" as I was last night when I heard it sung live. The song was sung by the bird lady and Mary Poppins. The bird lady sung her request for money and Mary Poppins filled in the story. It was lovely and I ached a bit, in a good way, when I heard it. Quite lovely.
The songs from the move were simply better than the new songs. They're just catchier, easier for normal folks to learn and sing. The new songs just aren't. However, the new songs do drive the story and characters better than the old songs.
There's an anti-Mary Poppins. She's outrageous and her song is very funny. I wish she'd been around longer, but the battle between her and Mary Poppins was great.
What I hated:
Burt sang "Let's Go Fly a Kite" to try to cheer up the kids and taught them to fly a kite rather than being Mr. Banks's demonstration of love for his children. In the movie it was the final song, the culmination of everything Mary Poppins was teaching the whole family. Instead the last song is about reaching beyond what you desire so you get your desire and more. It's a good message song, but it isn't strong for the characters. After that song the plot gets tied up as you'd expect and the cast does a reprise of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The ending felt weak, to me. There's the promise that Mr. Banks will spend more time with his family and everything will be happy ever after, but this ending doesn't show the happiness. They really should have kept "Let's Go Fly a Kite" as the closing number.
Despite the weak ending, I enjoyed the play. I'd see it again, but it'll never be able to replace the movie.