Western Nevada College News
Final Weekend to See WNMTC Production of 'Mary Poppins'
Nov 16, 2023
Don’t miss Disney’s high-flying, supercalifragilistic adventure with everyone's favorite nanny this November! Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company’s production of “Mary Poppins” will captivate and entertain audiences.
The history of how this magical novel about Mary Poppins became a smashing film and musical was a struggle that nearly didn’t happen.
The stories of Mary Poppins are taken from a series of eight children’s books written by P.L. Travers between 1934 and 1988. Mary is a magical nanny who comes to tend to the Banks children and to help mend the hapless Banks family. She takes the children on several extraordinary adventures while using her “Spoonful of Sugar” discipline, staying until the parents, George and Winifred, learn how to create their own sense of family. The stories draw on myths that Travers cherished, as well as Eastern mysticism and Celtic folklore. She was also deeply drawn to Theosophy, which shows the connectedness of the universe and the divine. Mary demonstrates that magic is around and within us: we only need to embrace it with childlike wonder.
Most of America knows Mary from the Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke. The film “Saving Mr. Banks” documents Walt Disney’s struggle to convince Travers to give him the rights to turn her novels into a movie musical. Disney and his daughters loved the stories of the no-nonsense nanny and her magical adventures and he was determined to use them. Travers was against the idea because she felt that Disney’s use of animation would trivialize her work. Disney persisted for 20 years, finally winning her consent by personally visiting her and by granting her script approval rights. While Travers wanted stories for the film to be taken from her first three books, Disney chose to focus on the first book only. He hired the Sherman brothers – Richard and Robert – to write the score. Richard commented that the character of the Bird Woman encapsulated the message of the work. He insisted that when she sings “Feed the Birds” it has nothing to do with tuppence or birds, but that it doesn’t take much to love and to make a difference in someone’s life.
In the end, Travers was disappointed with the film. Her objections were trumped by Disney’s contract stipulation that he had final say on the finished print. The film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards — a first for Disney – and won five.
When Cameron Mackintosh determined that he wanted to convert the film into a Broadway musical, Travers was adamantly opposed, still frustrated by her experience with the film. He tried acquiring the rights in the early 1970s, but Travers refused him. Mackintosh visited her personally in 1993, persuading her with his proven track record of creating extraordinary works, including “Cats,” “Les Misérables” and “The Phantom of the Opera”. She finally relented. It took Mackintosh another seven years, though, to convince Disney to collaborate on the project.
Travers died in 1996, so never saw her work on the Broadway stage.
Mackintosh and Disney Corporation gathered a strong creative team to create the work, including the Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes, who later became famous for writing “Downton Abbey”. Fellowes added depth and texture to the characters and drew from multiple stories that had not been used in the film. George’s evil nanny, Miss Andrew, arrives to give a back story to George’s childhood. The children show their naughty side in this work, acting out their frustration over their neglectful father, yet learn to rise above their hurt to help heal the family. Winifred shows her vulnerability and newfound strength; George overcomes his loveless childhood to bring affection into his family.
The show was a blockbuster on Broadway, winning seven Tony nominations and running for six years before surrendering the Disney theater to the opening of “Aladdin”.
WNMTC’s rendition of “Mary Poppins” is set for weekends from Nov. 3-19 at the Carson City Community Center. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit wnmtc.com.