POPPING IN AGAIN
Lin-Manuel Miranda gladly departed the stage to join the cast of Mary Poppins Returns, which reunites the world with a beloved character
Everyone has a Mary Poppins memory. Even those of us born decades after the film’s original 1964 premiere recall humming to its melodies ( Chim Chim Cher-ee), contemplating its wisdom (In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun!) and wishing we got a spoonful of sugar to make our medicine go down.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has a Mary Poppins memory. The composer, lyricist, playwright, rapper and actor recounts it to us in vivid detail.
“I had the puffy, white Disney VHS container – do you remember those?” he asks – a rhetorical question.
“I had the Mary Poppins edition. I remember, I would cry so hard during Feed the Birds that we would turn off the movie.
“I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched the movie the whole way through.”
Funny that, seeing as though Miranda will star alongside Emily Blunt in the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns, which he calls a “love letter to that first film”.
Miranda, who enjoys a deity-like status within the musical theatre community, (he wrote and starred in Hamilton: An American Musical; wrote the soundtrack for hit Disney movie Moana and has performed poetry for Barack Obama), will play the character of Jack the Lamplighter.
We don’t know a lot about Jack because he doesn’t actually feature in the ’64 original. But Miranda is happy to shed light on a character he’s clearly revelled in bringing to life.
“All we really know about Jack is that he was an apprentice to Bert – from the first Mary Poppins film,” says Miranda.
In the original, the three women jostle to run an entire country while simultaneously running each other into the ground.
Courtesy of a trio of ferociously focused lead performances, it is not hard to see why The Favourite is a enigmatic Bert was played by the equally enigmatic Dick Van Dyke, who returns to play a small part in the sequel.
“Bert had like, 500 freaking jobs,” laughs Miranda, “he played all the instruments, he was a chimney sweep.
“But where Bert and Mary were contemporaries and had a flirtatious relationship – Jolly Holiday was one long flirt session, let’s not kid ourselves – Jack is the same age as the Banks children. So he has this sense of reverence, this awe towards Mary.”
Directed by Rob Marshall and produced by his partner John DeLuca – two men who know their way around a movie musical, having both been involved in the Oscarwinning 2002 film adaptation of Chicago – it’s not unlikely that Mary Poppins Returns will offer audiences of all ages a sort of escapism from the tumultuous year that’s been. Mary Poppins Returns opens in cinemas on New Year’s Day frontrunner in all the categories that matter this awards season.
It is early in the 18th century, and on the face of it, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) reigns supreme. However, her physical and mental wellbeing keep fluctuating wildly.
Taking advantage of this power vacuum is Queen Anne’s trusted advisor (and secret lover) Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). This is rudely interrupted by the arrival to court of Abigail (Emma Stone), a cousin of Sarah.
The combustive feminine firepower consistently ignited by the three leads here is a wonder to behold.
Musical theatre legend Lin-Manuel Miranda plays the character of Jack the Lamplighter in Mary Poppins Returns.
Rachel Weisz is in fine form in the superb The Favourite.