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Mary Poppins Opens at Prince Edward, 15 Dec 2004

By • West End
As previously tipped (See The Goss, 23 Jun 2003), the stage adaptation of movie musical classic Mary Poppins will hit the West End's Prince Edward Theatre next winter. Co-producers Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney Theatrical Productions, and Cameron Mackintosh have officially confirmed that the show will open on 15 December 2004, 40 years after the premiere of the film.

Mary Poppins is based on the stories of PL (Pamela) Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney film, which starred Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews as London chimneysweep Bert and the eponymous magical nanny of the title.

Though no casting has yet been announced for the stage version, the creative team will be led by former NT artistic director Richard Eyre, with co-direction and choreography by Matthew Bourne and additional choreography by Stephen Mear. The production will be designed by Bob Crowley, with lighting by Howard Harrison, sound by Andrew Bruce and Nick Lidster, and orchestrations by William David Brohn.

Mary Poppins will feature many of the songs from the Sherman Brothers' Oscar-winning film score - which included "Chim Chim Cher-ee", "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" - as well as new songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Honk!, Peter Pan). The stage production has been created, in collaboration with Mackintosh, by Julian Fellowes (who won an Oscar for his Gosford Park screenplay).

Born Helen Lyndon Goff in Queensland Australia in 1899, Pamela Travers worked as an actress, journalist and poet before writing the books, following Mary Poppins' adventures with the Banks family, which were published between 1934 and 1981, have sold millions of copies worldwide and been translated into 24 languages. Travers died in 1996 at the age of 96.

Cameron Mackintosh met Travers more than a decade ago, when they talked about her wish for her greatest creation to become a stage musical. In a statement issued about the new production, the impresario said: "I was very touched that she entrusted me with the stage rights to her books, but equally aware that the only possibility of making her dream come true would be a real collaboration between myself and Disney, so that we could create a new work out of original Travers' stories and yet retain the essence of the extraordinary magic of the film.

He continued: "From the outset of my meetings with Tom Schumacher last year, it was apparent that we were both searching for the same show. We very much hope that we will achieve Pamela's dream and create an equally enjoyable, but different, musical Mary Poppins to delight a modern audience."

The screen original was also a somewhat long-term labour of love for Walt Disney, who spent some 20 years on it, from the time he first tried to secure the film rights to its premiere in1964. The film - which pioneered the mixing of live action and animation along with an original musical score - was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and won five.

Currently at the Prince Edward Theatre, the hit Abba musical Mamma Mia! is due to transfer next summer to the Prince of Wales, also owned by Mackintosh, which is currently undergoing a £7 million refurbishment (See News, 22 Apr 2003).

- by Terri Paddock


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