Mary Poppins Slider © VBW

Story of success

From the page to the stage

MARY POPPINS, the musical, marks the first collaboration between Cameron Mackintosh and the President of Disney Theatrical Productions, Thomas Schumacher, and is based on both the stories of P.L. Travers and the original Walt Disney film.

The character is the brainchild of the enigmatic Pamela Lyndon Travers (real name Helen Lyndon Goff) who worked as an actress, journalist and poet before creating the iconic Mary Poppins.  She wrote the first novel about Ms Poppins in 1934 and the last, Mary Poppins and the House Next Door in 1988. Travers did not think of her books as children’s books as she believed they contained universal themes.  Some of the themes in the novels may have been influenced by the author’s relationship with George Gurdjieff who was a Russian mystic whom she met in France in the 1930s and who was the major spiritual force in her life. P.L. Travers herself lived to the remarkable age of 96, and continued writing until the end of her life.  Her novels have sold tens of millions of copies around the world and have been translated into 24 languages.

Disney’s Mary Poppins was filmed in 1964.  It won five Oscars the following year for “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Julie Andrews), “Best Effects and Special Visual Effects” (Peter Ellenshaw, Hamilton Luske, Eustace Lycett), “Best Film Editing” (Cotton Warburton), “Best Music”, “Original Song” (Richard M. Sherman and Robert M. Sherman for  ‘Chim Chim Chiree’).  

In 1965 it also won a BAFTA for “Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles” (Andrews), a Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture Actress” (Andrews) and a Grammy for “Best Original Score written for a Motion Picture” (Sherman and Sherman). Shortly after P.L. Travers published the first Poppins book in 1934, actress Beatrice Lillie spoke to her about appearing as Mary on stage and in 1948, an 18 year old Stephen Sondheim wrote several songs for his own adaptation which was never completed.

Cameron Mackintosh first tried to acquire the stage rights to Mary Poppins over 25 years ago, as did many other producers on both sides of the Atlantic.  He finally met P.L. Travers in 1993 when she decided that he could be trusted with her creation.  He persuaded her that a stage version could be created by combining her stories with the key ingredients and songs from the film to invent something completely new. The stage version honours the much darker original books whilst becoming unique in its own right.

MARY POPPINS the musical opened on 15 December 2004 at the Prince Edward Theatre in London and ran for more than three years and 1,291 performances. MARY POPPINS opened on Broadway on 14 October 2006 at the New Amsterdam Theatre.  When it closed on 3 March 2013 it had run for over 6 years and 2,619 performances and had become the 22nd longest running show in Broadway history
The first US Tour of MARY POPPINS opened in Chicago in March 2009 and toured to 34 cities including Toronto and Mexico City.

MARY POPPINS has won more than 30 major international awards including in the UK 2 Olivier Awards for “Best Actress in a Musical” and “Best Theatre Choreographer”; in America 1 Tony®-Award for “Best Scenic Design” and 2 Drama Desk Awards and in Australia 8 Helpmann Awards.    

The first foreign language production of the stage show opened in Goteborg, Sweden on 18 October 2008 and was performed entirely in Swedish.  Since then MARY POPPINS has been seen in many European countries including Finland, Denmark, Holland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Iceland and has been translated into 9 languages: Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Dutch, Czech, Estonian, Hungarian, Mexican Spanish and Icelandic.