Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical was not so great. It would have been one thing if they’d just taken the movie and turned it verbatim into a musical: We wouldn’t have been surprised by anything, and it wouldn’t have been anything new, but it still would have been entertaining. But instead, they decided it was important to change every single scene–for the worse. Every iconic memory from the movie was missing or thrashed, the plot was choppy, and the whole theme of the show was way off.
I can’t name every wrecked scene, but I’ll give an example. For some reason, they felt it was necessary to move the “Spoonful of Sugar” scene to the kitchen. Okay, that might have been fine, but then they decided that it wasn’t the kids’ fault that the kitchen was messy–it was the butler’s fault instead–which completely ruined the whole point of having that scene in the first place!
And then to make up for the missing plot points, they just interspersed new scenes where Mr. Banks scolds everyone and Mrs. Banks mourns being his wife, so that it’s clear he’s an awful parent/husband and that the children and Mrs. Banks are victims. These scenes make the plot choppy, because the whole show went back and forth like a pendulum: a song and dance with Mary Poppins followed by a serious scene about family dysfunction.
Another example of a wrecked scene: Obviously they couldn’t do “Jolly Holiday” in a watercolor vacation land with animated livestock, but instead… they set it in the park (which turned from winter to summer, woo-hoo), with half-naked “statues” coming to life and dancing. I felt it was not only disturbing, un-jolly, and boring, but that it was also somewhat inappropriate for a young audience.
The list of bad choices goes on and on: Mary Poppins quitting her job, the Banks family hiring a replacement nanny (think Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty who used to be the nanny of Mr. Banks, the kids not spending their coins on birdseed from the bird woman (Mary Poppins pays for it instead, and the kids save their coins), the Banks children not getting into trouble at the bank, the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” scene taking place in a carnival-like store that sells “ounces of conversation,” Mrs. Banks being ashamed because she used to be an actress (random!), Mrs. Banks not being involved in the suffragette movement, the children’s toys coming to life and sentencing them to imprisonment (which is still better than the British version, in which they’re sentenced to death by firing squad), and finally a completely unnecessary scene in which Mary Poppins takes the children into outer space.
The only good scenes were the conversation between Mr. Banks and Bert (because it was left exactly as it was in the movie) and the whole “Step in Time” number (which once again was very faithful to the movie). Since the writers decided that the movie’s dialogue for the scene in which Mr. Banks has his revelation (the climax of his plot) was irreplaceable, I can’t imagine why they didn’t realize that the same choice would have benefited the musical throughout.
Thank God for the cool special effects, or else we would have walked out after about half an hour.