Playhouse, Edinburgh, Thu 2 Oct–Sat 6 Dec
This article is from 2008.
In 1964, when Mary Poppins opened at the cinema, it immediately amassed an army of fans. One woman, however, was distinctly unimpressed by the all-singing, all-dancing Disney adaptation – the novel’s author, PL Travers. Thirty years later, when musical impresario Cameron Mackintosh decided to adapt it for the stage, Travers took some talking round.
‘Cameron promised her that he would incorporate more from her book into the stage show,’ explains Caroline Sheen, who plays the eponymous nanny. ‘And he convinced her that the film is so famous that she needed to accept that the songs and some of the scenarios would be part of the stage musical as well. So what we’ve got is a blend of her book, the film and some new stuff as well.’
Certain elements of the film, such as the animated sequences (which Travers notoriously loathed) are obviously missing – but there’s still plenty of spellbinding action. ‘There’s a lot of Disney magic,’ says Sheen. ‘You see me pulling various objects out of the carpet bag, there’s a lot of flying and Bert does something quite incredible which always brings a gasp from the audience.’
The tale of two badly behaved children, their disinterested parents, and the nanny who brings them back together, Mary Poppins is more than just a story – it’s a manifesto for living. ‘She teaches all her lessons in such a joyous way, that afterwards people initiate it into their own lives and kind of go “how would Mary Poppins do this?”,’ says Sheen. ‘I know I do – although I’m still really untidy and I can’t just click my fingers and make things tidier. But there are lessons in it for all of us, about generosity, listening and putting your family first.’