“I shall stay until the wind changes.”
That was the promise Mary Poppins made to Jane and Michael Banks back in 1910, and the wind did indeed change – for both the residents of 17 Cherry Tree Lane and also for us New Yorkers more than a century later.
For six-and-a-half years after the practically-perfect-in-every-way nanny blew onto Broadway, the aforementioned wind blew Mary and her parrot-head umbrella off The Great White Way. Still, just like the 1964 classic film from which the Broadway musical took its inspiration, the newer interpretation of “Mary Poppins” left us with long-lasting memories.
First a little background: “Mary Poppins” is my favorite movie of all-time – not my favorite Disney movie of all time; I love “Mary Poppins” more than any other movie I’ve ever seen! Sure, guys my age routinely list “The Godfather,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” or “Rocky” among the best films ever; myself, I’ve been a “Star Wars” nerd since I was 3 years old. Still, I’m secure enough to tell you even hearing “Feed the Birds” tops the sound of “The Imperial March” … if only slightly. The absolute loveliness of Mary outweighs the downright evil of Darth Vader.
So, as you can see, the opportunity to see Mary, Bert and the Banks family leap off the screen and onto the stage was a chance I had to take advantage of – and I certainly did! Weeks after the musical opened at 42nd Street’s New Amsterdam Theatre, Felicia and I snatched up a pair of mezzanine seats. A year later, I skipped out of a work event in Manhattan early to catch a matinee from the fourth row. I took my mom to see the show for her birthday. Shortly before the musical’s final act in March 2013, Felicia and I took part in an exclusive D23 event that not only gave us second-row seats, but also a tour of the theater, complete with a walk on stage and a behind-the-scenes peek at some of the props; Felicia even got to wear Mary’s iconic hat!
Make no mistake: The show was magical. From a few “How did they do that?!” moments on stage, the story, the music (with a few songs we never heard in the film) to Mary’s show-stopping flight above the audience to end the night, “Mary Poppins” was a stage masterpiece in every way possible. (For a guy who’s only seen about three Broadway shows ever, I feel like I could write for Playbill after that summation!) In a word: It was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Seeing how “The Lion King” has enjoyed a 19-year run on Broadway, I felt assured Mary would have a similar residence in midtown. But alas, the Banks family walked out their front door to go fly a kite and never came back; Disney’s “Aladdin” replaced Mary at the New Amsterdam Theatre, opening in 2014, and similarly doesn’t disappoint.
Still, I was sad to see Mary go, but I think Mary’s work in New York was done.
Just as when she left the Banks clan at the end of the film and musical, having solved their problems and strengthened the family, I like to think Mary left us in favor of other audiences and fans who needed her love.
Ever the optimist, and in hopes we’ll see a revival some day, I echo Bert’s final sentiment at the conclusion of the historic film: “Goodbye, Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long.”
(Photos from the authors’ personal collection.)
Have you seen the stage version of Mary Poppins? If so, what did you like best? Let us know in the comments section below.
“New Yorkas” Felicia and Sean are avid Disney fans. Their first vacation as a couple was in Walt Disney World. They were engaged there, and also honeymooned there. After a combined 30 trips to the World, they are self-professed Disney travel agents and enjoy helping family and friends plan magical Disney vacations.