Stop That Foolish Singing This Minute! Mary Poppins Would Be Appalled

Mr. Banks learns that the British Empire, its banks and many other manifestations of authority should be undermined, or at least taken less seriously. Life would be better if parents allowed themselves to dance like chimney sweeps and fly kites in the park. They shouldn’t just pay more attention to their children; they should become more like them. The movie’s liberatory spirit is, of course, out of the heart of the 1960s.

The new Broadway show is ostensibly darker, showing that children too have their flaws. But again it is the parents who need the healing. —Edward Rothstein reviews a new Broadway version of Mary PoppinsStop That Foolish Singing This Minute! Mary Poppins Would Be Appalled (New York Times)

In this passage, Rothstein praises the subtlety of the books and laments the Broadway and Hollywood simplification:

Children are asked to submit to formal restrictions they don’t fully grasp; they see exaggerated manifestations of responsibility and authority. Yet underneath the adult exterior they also sense strange, half-threatening and half-alluring forces that promise a realm of magical freedom. Travers captured that double vision — that confusion and melding of realms — that makes childhood so powerful.

That is where the film and Broadway show come to rest, fully endorsing a childish vision of freedom, rejecting much of everything else. But in the books that isn’t possible.

I’ve blogged about Mary Poppins before.