Book by Julian Fellowes, based on Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers and the Disney film. Music and lyrics by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman, with additional material by George Stiles and Antony Drewe. The original London production opened on 15 December 2005 and was directed by Richard Eyre, with choreography by Matthew Bourne, running until 16 November 2006. The original opened on 2 October 2003 and is still running.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
Bert, a man of many professions, opens the show by taking the audience to the infamous Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane (“CHIM CHIM CHER-EE/CHERRY TREE LANE – PART 1). This is where the Banks family lives: George and Winifred Banks, their two children Jane and Michael, their cook, Mrs Brill and their odd-job man, Robertson Ay. Things are not going well, for Jane and Michael are out of control and as the show starts, their latest nanny, Katie Nanna, storms out. The children decide to write the advertisement for THE PERFECT NANNY, but George Banks has a very different idea of what constitutes the perfect nanny and he tears up the piece of paper and throws it in the fireplace (CHERRY TREE LANE – PART 2). Within moments Mary Poppins arrives and takes charge of the Banks children, having every confidence in her own qualifications and merits (PRACTICALLY PERFECT).
On the children’s first outing to the park, they meet Bert and, despite their reservations about his ragged clothes and dirty face, Mary teaches them that they must learn to look past appearances. To illustrate the point, Mary brings the park statues, including a mythological figure named Neleus, to life (JOLLY HOLIDAY). While Mary manages the children, other problems lie with their parents. Winifred Banks is aware that she is somehow disappointing both her children and her husband (BEING MRS BANKS). George Banks, on the other hand, can’t understand why she finds the role of wife and mother so difficult (CHERRY TREE LANE – REPRISE). In an effort to please her husband, Winifred sends out invitations for a smart tea party. The children inadvertently sabotage the kitchen preparations, but Mary Poppins sorts it out with a lesson (A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR). However, it is then revealed that none of the invitees are coming.
Mary takes the children to visit their father at the bank where he works (PRECISION AND ORDER). There, George is busy dealing with possible investment clients: first an ambitious man named Von Hussler who has an elaborate money-making scheme and then a middle-class man named Northbrook who has a simple factory project. George is furious when Mary turns up with the children, but an innocent question asked by Jane makes him realise how much his values have changed (A MAN HAS DREAMS) since he was an idealistic young man. He then decides to accept Northbrook’s project, and rejects Von Hussler’s. Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, Mary introduces the children to the Bird Woman (FEED THE BIRDS). Jane is suspicious of her, but Michael responds to the Bird Woman and throws crumbs for the birds. On the trip home, the children meet the enigmatic Mrs. Corry who runs a magic sweet shop that also sells words (SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS). The children return home in high spirits, unaware that things have gone wrong for their father. Unknown to them, George’s decision to reject Von Hussler has cost the bank dearly, and he is suspended without pay. George explodes with rage at the children and they are sent to the nursery.
Reacting to her father’s outburst, Jane flies into a fury, ignoring Mary Poppins’ words of warning about controlling her temper. The frightening consequence of her anger becomes apparent as Jane and Michael’s toys take on a life of their own and teach the naughty children a lesson. With plenty of witnesses, including a Jack-in-the-box as the “surprise witness,” the children were found guilty and the apparitions collapse as Mary Poppins returns (TEMPER, TEMPER). Realising that Jane and Michael still have a lot to learn, Mary decides to leave Cherry Tree Lane to bring them to their senses (CHIM CHIM CHER-EE – REPRISE). Her distraught charges find a note bidding them ‘au revoir’, which they learn, from Mrs. Brill, means “until we meet again” in French. Perhaps they will see Mary Poppins again…
Unfortunately, in a misguided attempt to please her husband, Mrs Banks arranges for his childhood nanny, Miss Andrew, to take over from the suddenly departed Mary (CHERRY TREE LANE – REPRISE). At the very sight of her, a terrified Mr. Banks flees, exclaiming “the Holy Terror!” To everyone’s shock and dismay, Miss Andrew is a brutal and cruel tyrant, rejecting any notion of a “spoonful of sugar” in favour of her own terrible elixir (BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE – PART 1). Terrified of their new nanny, the children escape to the park and find their good friend Bert, who cheers them up and helps Michael fulfill his dream of flying a kite (LET’S GO FLY A KITE). This marks the return of Mary Poppins. Jane and Michael are thrilled to be reunited with her, and quickly tell her of the changes that have gone on at Number 17. Also hiding in the park is George, who is depressed over his supposed lack of achievements (GOOD FOR NOTHING). Searching for him is Winifred, who at last understands her husband and the damage that was done to him by Miss Andrew (BEING MRS BANKS – REPRISE).
When the children return to Number 17, Mary sets Caruso, Miss Andrew’s lark, free from his cage. This leads to confrontation between the two nannies, ending with Miss Andrew having a taste of her own medicine as she is put in a large birdcage and vanishes down below (BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE – PART 2). Winifred and then George return at this point, surprised but pleased that Miss Andrew has “left” (PRACTICALLY PERFECT – REPRISE). On their next adventure, Bert introduces the children to his friends the chimney sweeps (CHIM CHIM CHER-EE – REPRISE / STEP IN TIME). The sweeps’ dance eventually enters the house, causing chaos. As the sweeps quickly exit, George receives a telegram from the bank requesting his presence there. George assumes that it is to seal his fate and decides its time to sell the family heirloom. When the vase is shattered by accident, it reveals a collection of gingerbread stars from George’s childhood. This leads to a brief moment of reflection for George (A MAN HAS DREAMS / A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR – REPRISE). After shaking hands with Bert, George leaves to meet the Chairman of the Bank.
At the children’s encouragement, Winifred decides to follow her heart and be at George’s side at the bank (ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN). Unseen to anyone else, Mary takes Jane and Michael to follow, where they watch the unfolding events. At the bank, George is shocked to learn the truth about his choice: far from ruining the bank, he has made a fortune. They ask for the word that made them so successful, which George admits to be Mary Poppins’ word, (SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS – REPRISE). Winifred, arriving to defend her husband, finds instead he is the hero of the hour. After she mentions Miss Andrew’s name to the Bank Manager, the old man too exclaims “the Holy Terror,” which hints that he too might have suffered under the wicked nanny. George apologises for underestimating her and together they return to the house (ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN – REPRISE).
Mary realises that with the family reunited and happy, her task is done. With regret she says goodbye to Bert with a kiss, and sets off (A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR – REPRISE). Jane and Michael accept that Mary has left again, knowing that they no longer need her. The two children watch as their parents waltz happily together and Mary flies high above the audience, disappearing in a flash.
Purchases from Amazon.com
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: 1. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. 2. Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers. 3. Mary Poppins: Practically Perfect in Every Way – the making of the stage musical. 4. Mary Poppins Vocal Selections (Stage). 5. Mary Poppins Vocal Selections (Film).