MARY POPPINS National Tour on "190 North"

Uploaded by DisneyOnBroadway on 04.06.2009

Coming up on 190 North it's a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious takover!
We go behind the scenes for a sneak peek at MARY POPPINS.
We chat with the stars of the show and we make music with the original composers.
It's all next on 190 North.
Hello, and welcome to 190 North. I'm Janet Davies.
In the next half hour, we are giving you a backstage pass to the theatrical production, MARY POPPINS.
We'll meet the cast, producers, and original composers who played a part in making the movie come alive.
First up: Michelle Allegria dazzles us with highlights of the musical's red carpet premiere.
The red carpet has been rolled out for the world's most famous nanny, Mary Poppins.
And the first stop on the national tour is Chicago, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.
I'm so excited to be here for Opening Night.
- What are you most excited about? - How is she gonna float?
How exciting is it, Ali, to be here on Opening Night of MARY POPPINS?
Um, really cool because I already saw it on Broadway so I really want to see how it compares.
"A spoonful of sugar helps the medecine go down, the medecine go down, the medecine go down."
This girl's got some pipes!
The Tony Award-winning musical that first graced the London stage, then Broadway in New York City, is now officially in Chicago.
It's combining the magic from the original stories written by author P.L. Travers and, of course, the Walt Disney classic movie.
The trick to this was taking the best of the movie and the best of the books by Pamela Travers.
You know she wrote these books in the '30s and Walt didn't make his movie until the 1960s.
This is a new invention, taking the best of those two and putting them together.
A surprise guest from Disney's stage show AIDA, also graced the red carpet.
I'm really excited to see the show, you know, and I'm a Disney girl.
And it's practically perfect in every way because original Broadway stars Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee are helping launch the national tour.
It's amazing! We think the show looks better here than it's ever looked anywhere else and we're thrilled with the company.
You can be 8, you can be 80, you will have the most fantastic time at this show.
The glamorous premiere also brought out Richard Sherman who, along with his brother Robert,
composed the original music for the motion picture on behalf of Mr. Walt Disney.
He's the one that discovered these books by Pamela Travers, and fought for 20 years to get the rights to do the film.
- Tell us what to expect here. What are we going to see? - Enchantment, magic.
Every time we've done this show it's got better and better. It's just beautiful to watch.
And the red carpet spectacle culminated into a lively Opening Night performance of the show.
Opening Night of MARY POPPINS here in Chicago just ended.
Now let's find out what the crowd thinks of this sold-out show.
- It was fabulous. - Great. Theatrical graphics and everything. It was awesome.
- Absolutely fabulous. - And I second the motion.
I thought the show was absolutely amazing.
I've seen the show before in London and New York and I thought this was the best cast there has been so far.
It was fun and full of energy, and practically perfect in every way.
It was so magical and when she flew out over the audience I just cried. It was so touching.
And now it's off to the after-party.
The MARY POPPINS cast toasted to a spoonful of sugar at the Red Lacquer Room --
where we caught up with the stars of the show and the nanny of the hour, "Mary Poppins" herself.
It has been so amazing to be here in Chicago. Everybody's been so fantastic and very welcoming, and the audiences absolutely love it.
It's fantastic. We've just had the best Opening Night response I think we've had since I was lucky enough to do the Opening Night of London.
Oh, it's amazing. It's an absolute dream come true.
Well, Chicago's been one of my favorite cities. I've had many, many of my shows open here.
So, it was a natural place we'd want to start to do the new version of MARY POPPINS.
Native Chicagoan Abigail Droger, who plays the daughter, "Jane Banks," was especially happy to be back in her hometown for Opening Night.
It's absolutely phenomenal. I'm so excited, it's here in Chicago, and I'm having a great time here. It's awesome.
Party-goers enjoyed the festivities and celebrated well into the night the magical MARY POPPINS premiere.
Thank you, Michelle. Looks like you had a lot of fun.
From the multi-functional set to the props, wigs, and wardrobe, I went behind the scenes for an all-access VIP tour. You have to check this out.
Far out wigs? Eclectic wardrobes? Well, I toured this meticulously crafted set from its highest point and even stooped to its lowest.
I went where few have gone for an all-access tour of the highly anticipated musical, MARY POPPINS.
Chim chiminee, chim chiminee, chim chim cher-ee...
Finally on tour after premiering in London and on Broadway,
I even chatted with the president of the Disney theatrical group, Tom Schumacher,
who played a role in making MARY POPPINS come alive from the page to stage.
I think it's impossible to hear the words "Mary Poppins" and not say "Spoonful of Sugar," "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," "Jolly Holiday."
These songs are really part of us.
This elaborate production that hit Chicago by storm in March has had many different elements that make this musical magical.
First up, I toured the set which unfolds like a pop-up book.
But think about MARY POPPINS. The first thing you think about is the Banks Family house, Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
It's a 3-story house that opens almost like a pop-up book onstage.
So it's an entirely different way to deliver the house than we do on Broadway.
But here's the secret chimney door, and this way it's plexi so we can see you. But I think you should get inside, so hop in.
Now all it takes is one button, and we could shoot you out a chimney.
It's a stage illusion, but the kids sleep on a bed that is about the size of a canapé tray.
You can't - I think you could fit 2 rumake on here and that's about all you're going to be able to get.
Although the bedroom props may be lacking in length, there was no half-stepping when it came to the enourmous wig collection.
This is mostly Eastern European hair. So there's a bald woman somewhere farming outside of Prague.
But she's going to appear 8 times a week on tour.
So not only do you have to have a wig for everybody onstage and every character, but there's 2 wigs more for the understudies.
'Cause everybody has their own hair, this is a gigantic thing to tour around the country.
Another key element that sets this musical apart from other productions is the wardrobe.
This show is more colorful than the other shows that I've ever been on. The costumes are actually a little more high-tech.
Some of our costumes are actually magic. Where other, you know, it's just your standard costumes,
we have lots of little tricks, parts and pieces to our costumes.
And of course we couldn't part without finding out how the musical makes magic.
Well everbody wants to know that Mary's going to fly and so we do a couple of different flying illusions.
If you look up there, that's the magic spot where Mary goes.
- So do you want to go up and look down? Let's go. - Oh yes, please.
So naturally I had to venture out to see how high Mary Poppins actually goes, and boy was I impressed.
Is this, is this the biggest that Disney Theatricals has done? Is this bigger than LION KING?
No, it's not bigger than LION KING, thank heavens.
We do big shows, but I think that's what, in the case of the audience coming to this, want to see a big show.
They want to see big numbers; they want to see great costumes;
they want the story to touch their heart; they want great music; and they want something to remember.
It's a cool set.
While the world first glimpsed the friendly flying nanny on the silver screen in the 1960s,
it took decades to finally see the story hit the stage.
Our friend Scott McKay has the story of how it went from blockbuster to Broadway.
There's no doubt that the love Disney felt inspired producers to take the story of MARY POPPINS to the stage.
But did you know that 1964 movie actually got its start with a series of kids' books first published in the '30s?
Australian novelist Pamela Travers actually penned 8 books about the whimsical nanny's adventures.
The first, simply titled "MARY POPPINS," was published in 1934.
It didn't take long for movie producers to come calling.
You have Walt Disney, who chased Pamela Travers from the '40s until the '60s
to make his fantastic movie that came out in '64.
After 2 years of scripting and musical composing,
Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews landed starring roles in Disney's version of MARY POPPINS.
Chim chiminee, chim chiminee, chim chim cher-ee...
The film got 13 Academy Award nominations and went on to win 5, including Julie Andrews' Oscar for Best Actress.
Ironically, it was one of the film's own stars who tossed out the idea of MARY POPPINS as a musical.
The first time I heard about it talked about actually is in a radio interview. It's the spring of 1965.
Dick Van Dyke, Julie Andrews, and Richard and Robert Sherman, the composers, are being interviewed on the radio.
And Dick says, "I think this would be a fantastic Broadway show."
And they all shout him down saying, "You could never do this onstage."
But a string of producers thought Van Dyke might actually be onto something.
Think about 30 years ago, in the late '70s, I along with many other producers thought wouldn't it be marvelous to see it onstage.
Wrote my letter, and of course got the usual reply, a polite reply saying "Thanks, but no thanks."
Famed Broadway producer Cameron Mackintosh never forgot his dream
to stage the story of the nanny blow by the East wind to Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
And 20 years later, he got the rare chance to meet the then 93-year-old POPPINS author.
I went to her house in Chelsea and, um, she could -- she interviewed me.
And I thought I was going to ask her questions and she drilled me, absolutely.
She was as sharp as a tack, despite being rather frail.
And finally, she sort of looked at me and looked down her nose and went, "Mm, you'll do."
Both the author and producer agreed: a MARY POPPINS musical would need the popular songs from the Disney movie.
But talks soon stalled with the film studio. Until Disney Theatrical exec. Tom Schumacher met Mackintosh back in 2001.
He immediately found out that the show that I was dreaming was very much the show that he thought should be made.
And we began working, and it has worked rather seamlessly since.
The stage collaboration melds together what Mackintosh sees as the best elements from the books and the movies,
including 8 classics like "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."
Oh, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious.
I do believe that if ever there was a perfect version of -- musical version of MARY POPPINS, we've got the nearest to it.
And I will always treasure her son writing me a letter after the opening night
saying, "I now finally understand what my mother was all about, and indeed this is -- this is the story that she told us."
Thank you very much, Scott. Now coming up, we belt out beautiful ballads with some of the films original maestros of music.
190 North is brought to you in part by Broadway in Chicago, providing entertainment into the heart of Chicago's downtown theatre district.
Welcome back to this special edition of 190 North, all about MARY POPPINS.
Making the magic and music of the popular Disney film come to life took quite some time.
I recently sat down with the visionaries who were determined to make this musical despite the obstacles.
It took me, you know, nearly 15 years to get it onto the stage myself, but the journey has been meant.
And I, in my own head, I always think that Pamela's sort of weird control of both the stage rights, the book, and her veto on the movie --
she's up there, sort of manipulating us all to get what she wanted.
Staying true to the book and the movie Cameron worked with the Sherman brothers' original music
and enlisted the help of Anthony Drew and George Stiles for new material. With such a prolific creative team, anything can happen.
Anything can happen if you let it. Sometimes things are difficult, but you can bet it doesn't have to be so.
Changes can be made. You can move a mountain if you use a larger spade.
Kind of summed up where we were with MARY POPPINS.
How about "Practically Perfect?" I understand that maybe you wrote like that for the original movie but it was thrown out.
Mrs. Travers actually came up with that expression "practically perfect in every way." It was in her book.
And when we were reading the stories that just jumped right out at us. We said, "Wow, that's a natural." You know, it's a natural song title.
And we started something, but we got waylaid in writing and we never completed the song.
I'm practically perfect in every way.
- Practically perfect? - So people say.
Each virtue virtually knows no bound. Each trait is great and patently sound.
I'm practically perfect from head to toe. If I had a fault it would never dare to show.
I'm so practically perfect in every way.
She sings in a slightly higher register than I do. [Laughter]
When I first heard this song it was so right, it was so practically perfect, I said, "It's one of the best songs I ever wrote!"
And I, I mean I loved it. It was just great. And I felt very good. Because I was apprehensive to begin with.
These 2 young, British writers that are adding songs and changing melodies and adding things to ours.
And I was kind of scared. And then I heard that song and I said, "Wow, they know what they're doing."
Richard, I know with so many song-writers, they write a song for a film and it never makes it into that particular film,
but you find it crop up in another film along the way. Did that happen with MARY POPPINS?
Several songs that ended up -- There was a film called BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS about 7 years after MARY POPPINS,
and an underwater song went, "How lovely bobbing along, bobbing along on the bottom of the beautiful briny sea.
What a chance to get a better peep at the plants and creatures of the deep."
Now "Supercalifragilistic," did that come from the book or did that come from you and your brother's mind?
We sort of double-talked our way through "supercolossal" and "atrocious" and we sort of got the words in between to sound pretty good.
"Atrocious," "precocious," and "docious," why not?
And then at the beginning we had "supercolossal" though we dropped the "colossal" 'cause that's kind of corny.
And we'd say "super-califragilistic" you know, and that became our word.
Would you mind taking us out with a song?
S-U-P-E-R (S-U-P-E-R) C-A-L-I-F (C-A-L-I-F) R-A-G-I-L (R-A-G-L) I-S-T-I-C-E-X-P-I-A-L-I-D-O-C-I-O-U-S
Here we go! Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Supercalifragilistic (supercalifragilistic) supercalifragilisticex-pi-a-li-docious. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
It is important to note that this production features some original music from the film that will definitely leave you feeling pretty nostalgic.
Okay, after the break, we get up-close and personal with the stars who make MARY POPPINS magical.
Welcome back to 190 North. When most people think of MARY POPPINS, Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke might come to mind.
So needless to say, the actors in the theatre production had some large shoes to fill.
I had a chance to sit down with the stars of the stage show to get to know them a little better. Take a look at this.
- Supercalifragilistic -- - This perfectly magical musical wouldn't be
the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious spectacle that it is without this gal: Broadway's first Mary Poppins, Ms. Ashley Brown.
I caught up with Ashley and her little friend. Obviously something is in your lap, so we have to introduce everybody to...?
Eddie Brown, the true star of MARY POPPINS, is right here.
- And Eddie travels everywhere with you? - Everywhere.
- Where is Eddie during performance? - He's in my dressing room.
And he knows my cues now 'cause in New York he was there as well. My dresser's always like, "His ears always perk up and he's by the door."
And he's obviously very tired from his long day.
What caused you to leave the New York stage and go on tour?
I just wasn't ready to give it up. I wanted to really put my stamp on it, and travel with it, and bring Broadway to everybody else.
You know, the people that weren't able to come to New York and see the show.
Now what would you tell people about this show, comparatively speaking, when they think of the film?
I think we've put so much more of the books. And I feel like you get to know the characters so much more.
It really shows why Mary Poppins has chosen this family to come and rescue, basically.
Every actor has a magic moment in the show. Do you have a particular one or does it change from time to time?
I love "Chim-Chiminey." Bert and Mary are just by themselves.
Those simple scenes 'cause there's so much going on in the show all the time, which I love,
but it's the simple moments that I cherish a lot as well.
Now, speaking of Bert, the man behind the chimeny soot is London native Gavin Leigh, who also originated the role on stage.
I started performing way back in 1990, and then, uh, 4 years ago I had an audition for MARY POPPINS for the role of Bert.
And I'm still hanging onto that role now because it's the best role I've ever played.
Physically, you look like Bert, don't you?
You're always going to have Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in your mind when you think of Bert and Mary.
And so, that was lucky for me that I walked in and I'm tall and gangly, and just like Dick Van Dyke was.
And this "sweep" is as lucky as lucky can be. He's acting for the first time alongside an ensemble member who happens to be his wife.
- We always try to. We never get to. - We never get the opportunity.
- No, it's rare. - Indeed, this is the first time.
- When I got offered to do the first national tour of the U.S., Emily went and auditioned and got the job, and here we are in Chicago together.
- And we've been here for 5 weeks. - Yeah.
- And it's just, it's fabulous. What a great city. We keep telling -- - We love it.
everyone back home in England, and they're all coming out over the next 6 months while we're here to- to visit,
'cause it's a great town. It's just great.
- If you want... - Maybe Chicago native, 11-year-old Abigail Droeger can show the leads around town.
This talented young actress plays Jane Banks in the show.
MARY POPPINS is my 7th professional production, 6th in Chicago. I've worked at Lookingglass and Steppenwolf Theatre.
And most recently I played "Ilyusha" in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV at the Lookingglass Theatre.
You and the character of "Michael Banks" are almost in every scene. Is it exhausting?
It is very exhausting. We don't have - any time we're like not rehearsing and eating, sleeping, or doing schoolwork, I mean...
I have no other life besides this.
What do your friends at school think about what you're doing right now?
They're all very happy for me. They're so excited to see me in the show, um, but it's kind of hard for them to not see me every day at school.
But, we're kind of, I'm still trying to keep in contact with them as much as I can.
Okay, how do you feel about the opportunity to be such a brat in the show?
It's pretty cool. I like just bein' nasty as I can to everyone. It's fun, it's a lot of fun.
- Something you don't get to do at home. - Oh no. [Laughter]
Isn't Abigail a cutie? Okay, there's more 190 North all about MARY POPPINS when we return.
That's the end of our show and if you want more information on how to get tickets to see MARY POPPINS,
currently playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, just log on to our website at or call our hotline at 312-750-7190.
I'm Janet Davies. Thank you so much for joining us, and we will see you next week for another 190 North.
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.