THEATRE POPPINS CANCELEDMARY Poppins might be the story of a stern but magical London nanny charged with raising two mischievous children in a well-to-do Edwardian home, but at the announcement of the Australian premiere of the stage musical version the talk was of Poppins’ Australian roots.
“We’re looking forward to bringing Mary Poppins home,” said Thomas Schumacher, the head of Disney Theatrical International. He was speaking from New York via satellite link beamed to Queens Hall at Parliament House, where Premier John Brumby announced that Mary Poppins would open at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre in July 2010.
Mr Schumacher was joined in New York by British co-producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who said: “For us the most important place to take this is Australia, where it all started.”
Mary Poppins was written by the expatriate Australian children’s novelist, journalist and actress Pamela Lyndon Travers in 1934 but became a global phenomenon in 1964 with Walt Disney’s adaptation of the book into a film starring Julie Andrews.
Despite the success of the film, with its hit songs including A Spoonful of Sugar and Chim Chim Cher-ee, Travers disliked elements of it and only agreed to the stage version if it was adapted by English-born writers.
Before she died in London in 1996, aged 96, Travers is said to have reiterated in her will that she didn’t want Americans adapting her story for the stage.
The stage musical combines the original story with songs from the film version along with new songs, dance sequences and a Poppins who flies above the audience. It premiered in London in 2004 and on Broadway in 2006 where it is still playing.
The show’s British-born creative team director, Sir Richard Eyre, choreographer Matthew Bourne, writer Julian Fellowes and set designer Bob Crowley, will oversee the Australian production that will begin casting here in October. Australian actor Adam Fiorentino is now playing the role of Bert the chimney sweep in the Broadway production.
The show was originally intended to open in Sydney this year, but due to venue complications the producers switched to Melbourne in a deal shored up by the Victorian Major Events Company.
CEO Brendan McClements would not say what financial incentives were used to attract Disney and Mackintosh but said the city’s main selling point was Melburnians’ record in embracing big theatrical events.
Mr Brumby said: “The Mary Poppins musical builds on our track record of highly successful events which attract tourism, generate economic benefits and create jobs for Victorians.”