Mary Poppins returns to Cherry Tree Lane
The world’s favourite nanny is back with a carpetbag of magic tricks, a new soundtrack and a supercalifragilistic cast
NEED a spoonful of sugar to make the often-fraught festive season medicine go down? Well, here you go then: a dose of feelgood magic and tra-la-la tunes bound to banish the blues and give you renewed energy to face the world.
All you need to hear are the words “Mary Poppins” and you know you’re in for a treat. Add a stellar cast, a whole new playlist, sparkling special effects and a compelling story and – voila! – day made.
Mary Poppins Returns is one of the most eagerly anticipated movies this Christmas, a sequel to the beloved 1964 film that made Julie Andrews a worldwide star, spawned a brand-new word and was way ahead of its time.
Now the nanny who sails down from the sky to sort things out good and proper is back. A select group of Hollywood executives and film distributors were treated to a pre-screening and, although sworn to secrecy about the plot, they couldn’t help gushing about it. “It’s my favourite movie of the year,” one said.
“I grew up with Mary Poppins and the sequel absolutely met my expectations.”
Here’s more about this supercalifragilistic extravaganza.
The story opens in Depression-era London, 25 years after the original, which was set in 1910 Edwardian London.
The Banks siblings Jane (played by Emily Mortimer) and Michael (Ben Wishaw) are all grown up. Michael lives with his three children and their housekeeper Ellen ( Julie Walters) in the house on Cherry Tree Lane where Michael and Jane grew up.
When Michael loses his wife, Mary Poppins – this time brought to life by Emily Blunt – descends on the family to add her brand of feel-better-now enchantment into their sad lives. She’s accompanied by her sidekick, the street lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a reboot of Dick van Dyke’s chimney sweep in the original. Dick makes a dapper return in the new movie as the son of Mr Dawes, his character in the original. Then there’s Meryl Streep as Topsy, Mary’s eccentric cousin, Angela Lansbury as the balloon lady and Colin Firth with his stiffest upper lip as William Weatherall Wilkins, the new president of Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.
Director Rob Marshall explains he wanted to reintroduce Mary Poppins as an antidote to a world often weighed down by gloom and doom.
“I just feel like this is something we need so badly,” he says. “We live in such a fragile time that we need this film.
“I needed to turn off the news and be launched into a magical world where wondrous things can still happen and there’s hope.”
THE MAGIC OF PLAYING MARY
Emily Blunt was “completely gobsmacked” when Rob Marshall called her and offered her the role.
“He just said, ‘We’re going to do Mary
Poppins,” she told Ellen DeGeneres. “I was completely shocked and slightly terrified. I felt my hair blow back.”
But Rob knew she was the one and he was right: with her twinkling eyes, nononsense air and deliciously plummy British accent, 35-year-old Emily is perfect as Mary.
One critic describes her as “absolutely superb – this performance puts her slapbang in the middle of the best actress Oscar race”.
This is a musical, of course, and Emily has several songs to deliver, but she earned her singing chops in Disney’s Into the Woods and is in fine form again.
Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the songwriters behind Hairspray and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, wrote the soundtrack to suit Emily’s voice.
“To be a person to birth some of these songs has been such a huge honour,” the actress says.
“I think I felt less pressure approaching it in this way than I would doing an adaptation of something that’s been done before. You’ve only got songs that have effectively been catered to me and my ability.”
Emily made a point of avoiding the original movie, which she saw as a child. “Nobody’s going to out-do Julie Andrews. This is just going to be my version of her.”
Mary Poppins Returns will be in SA cinemas from 28 December.
Emily Blunt, who plays the new Mary Poppins, says she was shocked when she was asked to play the role. She made a point of not watching the original movie starring Julie Andrews (BELOW RIGHT).
Meryl Streep as Topsy
Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack
Julie Walters as Ellen
Angela Lansbury as the Balloon Lady
Colin Firth as William Weatherall-Wilkins