Top positive review
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If you seen the show, get this recording
on July 17, 2013
I have long been a fan of the 1964 classic Disney film "Mary Poppins". From the time I first saw it in the 1980s when it first showed up on home video, the film's songs, stories, and performances have stuck with me and are always a welcome sight. Even though I have a DVD copy of it sitting on a shelf, I still end up getting sucked into this movie whenever I come across it on TV. Before I know it, I've watched nearly an hour. It is truly a magical combination to me. That being said, I wasn't too sure how well I'd like the Broadway adaptation of "Mary Poppins". This apprehension is not without cause. I've witnessed far too many retreads of stories and characters from my childhood (i.e. Jim Carrey as the Grinch, the Flintstones movies, etc.) that were either too over the top or just plain dull and lifeless. I was sure they would do something that would just ruin what, to me, is an absolutely perfect marriage of story and song. So, even though I enjoyed the film, I stayed away from "Mary Poppins" on Broadway.
Then in 2012 a national tour of the show came to a theater in a nearby town. As ticket prices were not particularly high, I decided it was the right time to give this show a try. What I found, I'm glad to say, was a show that didn't take a hatchet to the film I love so much. Instead, it added a few new tunes, a few new stories, and more dimensions to the characters I have come to know. I decided I should get the cast recording of this show, and quick.
At first, I was all set to buy the Original London Cast Recording. But then I found the listing for this live recording and began reading some of the reviews. I was a little dismayed over this being the "Australian Cast Recording" because, well, Australia isn't Broadway or even London. It just didn't sound kosher to me. However, several reviewers noted (as does Cameron Mackintosh in his liner notes) this recording is now the definitive recording for the "Mary Poppins" musical. So I made the decision to buy this recording along with the London recording.
When I first saw this show, I was quite pleased at how well the new songs fit in with songs from the original film. The songwriting team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe did what I thought was near impossible; they added to the Sherman Brothers wonderful collection of songs with some great songs of their own. To me, the transition from one to the other is virtually seemless.
As for a comparison of the London recording to this one, the London recording skimps here and there (some of the "Cherry Tree Lane" sequence is missing, for instance), but most cast recordings do this, so there is no real sin in that. This live recording though includes all of the songs as they are performed during the production. I was also especially impressed with the high energy the performers on this recording seem to exude. Perhaps because it is live and not in a studio, it is easier to find that energy, but the performances of "Step In Time" and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" included here I thought sound especially better live.
This recording also includes a new song not found on the London recording - "Playing The Game" in place of "Temper, Temper". This song was also included in the production I saw. However, having bought both this recording and the London recording, I have to say I actually think "Temper, Temper" is a slightly better song. It has been written "Temper, Temper" was replaced because it was deemed too scary for some of the younger audience members. It is a great deal darker than "Playing The Game", however, with that darker tone I think comes a more adventurous song. Even though it was dropped, it is still a song worth checking out.
All said, this live recording does a great job capturing the energy and enthusiasm this show presents from start to finish. No, it isn't the movie I love so much, but it also isn't a poorly thought out remake either. There's a real respect for the original film from the creators of this show, and that is especially captured on this live recording. While I still might prefer the film to the musical, it's only a slight preference; this musical is indeed "practically perfect".